What Causes Occupant Ejection in Car Accidents?

High-speed car accidents can cause serious injuries as a result of the force of impact. If any passengers were not wearing their seat belts, they can be thrown from the vehicle, which can cause devastating injuries and fatalities. Statistics show that passengers ejected from vehicles are three times more likely to suffer fatal injuries. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 30 percent of all car accident fatalities are the result of being ejected from the vehicle or being hit by another vehicle after being thrown from the vehicle. Motorists and passengers can prevent injuries associated with ejection by understanding the common causes of these accidents and taking the proper safety precautions, whether they are behind the wheel or in the backseat.

There are two types of ejection, both of which are serious and can lead to devastating injuries and fatalities. A partial ejection occurs when part of the occupant’s body, such as the head, chest, or torso, is thrown through the windshield or passenger window while the rest of the passenger’s body is secured inside the vehicle by a faulty seat belt. If the vehicle continues to move while the passenger is partially ejected, the passenger can suffer additional injuries if another vehicle strikes the car, or it rolls into another object. A complete ejection occurs when the impact throws the passenger completely out of the car. Injuries from complete ejections are serious and can be fatal, particularly if a passing car hits the passenger after he or she has been ejected.

What are the Common Causes of Occupant Ejection?

In most cases, for a vehicle occupant to be thrown from his or her vehicle, the car must be traveling at a relatively high speed. There are exceptions to this rule, but regardless of the cause, car accidents involving a passenger who is ejected from this vehicle are often quite serious. The following are common causes of occupant ejection:

  • Failure to wear a seat belt: It is common knowledge that seat belts are the best defense against serious injuries in the event of a car accident. According to the NHTSA, the rate of seat belt use in 2019 was over 90 percent, but that still leaves 10 percent who do not use their seat belts. The following are important facts every motorist should know about wearing a seat belt:
    • It is the most important thing someone can do to save their life or reduce the severity of injuries resulting from a car accident.
    • Air bags do not replace seat belts when it comes to protecting motorists from injuries; they work in conjunction with seat belts. In the event of an accident, if the airbag deploys and the motorist is not wearing a seat belt, he or she can be thrown into the rapidly opening air bag and suffer serious injuries.
    • Seat belt positioning is very important. Motorists and passengers should never place the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm.
    • Seat belts should fit properly. If it is too small, the vehicle owner can ask the dealer or manufacturer if there are seat belt extenders available. Older models can be retrofitted with current lap and shoulder belts for more effective protection.
    • Children should always be properly secured in their car seats using the appropriate seat belt or latch system based on the age and height of the child.
  • Defective seat belts: Older vehicles may not meet current safety standards when it comes to seat belt safety. However, even new cars can have defective parts, including seat belts. Faulty seat belts can unlatch and fail to restrain vehicle occupants in the event of a serious car accident.
  • Defective door latches: Each year, over 8,000 people are thrown from their vehicle because of a faulty door latch. When the latch fails to keep the door closed during an accident, vehicle occupants can suffer serious injuries, including broken bones, neck and back injuries, road rash, spinal cord injuries, and other potentially life-threatening injuries.
  • Rollover ejections: This is the fastest growing cause of fatal injuries associated with vehicle ejections. When a vehicle rolls over, the seat belt and airbags are designed to protect the occupants of the vehicle. However, if the restraint systems and door locks are not effective or the rollover was caused by a high-speed accident, the occupants can be ejected from the vehicle. Over 50 percent of rollover fatalities involve a passenger who was ejected from the vehicle.
  • Sport utility vehicles (SUVs): Consumers who purchase SUVs often believe that they are safer than other vehicles as a result of their larger size. However, they are more susceptible to rollover accidents because of their high center of gravity. As a result, motorists who drive SUVs are at a greater risk of serious injuries and fatalities associated with occupant ejection.
  • Weak glass on windows: If the vehicle’s windows shatter too easily, it will be less effective at keeping the occupants safely contained in the vehicle. As a result, occupants are at a greater risk of being ejected from the car.
  • Age of vehicle: Occupants of newer car models are less likely to be thrown from their vehicle because they are more likely to use their seat belts due to warnings alerting to the driver or systems that prevent the car from moving until all passengers are buckled.

What Types of Injuries Do Ejection Accidents Cause?

When a motorist or passenger is in a serious car accident and he or she is thrown from the vehicle, it is highly likely that the resulting injuries will be quite serious, if not fatal. The following are examples of serious injuries that occupant ejection can cause:

  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Head injuries
  • Internal organ damage and internal bleeding
  • Neck injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

How can an Ejection Accident be Prevented?

Obeying the rules of the road, following the speed limit, and avoiding distractions are just a few ways to avoid serious car accidents. The following safety tips can help reduce the risk of vehicle ejections and the life-threatening injuries associated with them:

  • Obey the speed limit. Speeding is dangerous and can cause accidents, and the resulting injuries, to be far more severe due to the force of impact. When motorists follow the speed limit, they are less likely to be involved in a high-speed car accident where they are thrown from the vehicle.
  • Make sure the vehicle is maintained properly. Some ejection accidents are caused by defective parts, such as seat belts, door latches, and windows. Motorists should have their vehicles checked on a regular basis and make any necessary repairs if any of these parts are not functioning properly.
  • Wear a seat belt at all times. This should go without saying, but all motorists, including passengers in the backseat, should always wear their seat belts. If there are multiple passengers in the vehicle, the driver should not start moving until all occupants have buckled their seat belts. This includes children who are in car seats. 

What Should Someone Do If Injured in an Ejection Accident?

If someone suffered a serious injury after a partial or complete ejection, they may be eligible for financial compensation, particularly if the injury was the result of a malfunctioning seat belt, a defective door latch, or weak glass that caused the window to shatter easily. If this is the case, the car manufacturer may be held liable. If the accident resulted in a fatality, the surviving family members may wish to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for financial and emotional losses, including compensation for funeral expenses, current and future lost wages, and loss of consortium. A skilled car accident lawyer will review the case and recommend the best legal course of action.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Maximum Financial Compensation for Car Accident Victims

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident after being ejected from your vehicle, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We will determine who is responsible for the accident and hold that party liable for your injuries. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.