What Do I Need to Know About Occupant Ejection in Car Accidents?

Car accident resulting in occupant ejection

Whenever a car accident happens, several factors affect the nature of the injuries to the occupants in the vehicles. Some factors impact whether a car accident is more likely to be fatal. Speed often plays a role because of the reduced braking time and force of an impact at the time of the car crash. The angle of a collision, size, weight of the vehicle, safety features, and failure to wear seat belts are some other indicators of whether there will be fatalities or severe injuries in a car crash.

Nationwide data consistently reflects that an occupant ejected from a vehicle due to a car crash is likely to be killed or severely injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 33,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes every year in the United States. Statistics from the NHTSA also show that occupants ejected from cars are more likely to die from their injuries.

Fatal and severe injuries associated with ejection from vehicles can be prevented by understanding the common causes of these accidents and taking the proper safety precautions. There are ways both drivers and passengers can reduce the likelihood of being ejected in a car accident.

There are two types of the ejection, both of which can lead to severe injuries and fatalities. While each form of ejection can be devastating, a partial occupant ejection has slightly lower death rates:

  • Partial ejection: A partial ejection occurs when part of the occupant’s body, such as the head, chest, or torso, is thrown through the windshield or a passenger window while the rest of the passenger’s body is secured inside the car. 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 if the car rolls into another object.
  • Complete ejection: A complete ejection occurs when the impact throws the occupant entirely out of the car. Injuries from complete ejections are severe and often fatal, especially if a passing vehicle hits the occupant after being ejected.

What Are Common Causes of Occupant Ejection?

Some causes of occupant ejections include:

  • Failure to wear a seat belt: This is the most common cause of ejection from a vehicle. The simple task of clicking your seat belt in your driving routine, and requiring the same of your passengers, can save lives in a matter of seconds. It is also important to remember that airbags are not meant to replace seat belts when it comes to protecting occupants in the event of a car accident. If airbags deploy and drivers and passengers in the front are not wearing seat belts, they can be thrown into the rapidly opened airbags and suffer serious injuries.
  • Speeding: In most cases, the vehicle must be traveling at a relatively high speed for an occupant to be ejected. When drivers or passengers are ejected in a car crash, they continue to move at the same speed as the car was going but without any life-saving restraints or other protection. The ejected occupant will often hit the first solid object in the airborne path, with the additional risk that the vehicle will land on top of them.
  • Restraint failure: Seat belt malfunction is a leading cause of ejection and not wearing a seat belt. Older vehicles may not meet current standards regarding seat belt safety, although even the newer models can have defective restraints.
  • Door malfunction: In some cases, door malfunction contributes to the ejection of a driver or passenger in a car accident. Most often, the car door was not closed all the way, or the latch on the door was faulty and opened upon impact. Vehicle occupants can suffer severe and life-threatening injuries when a door latch fails to keep a door closed during a car accident.
  • Window damage: Windshields and side windows can protect occupants from hazards like debris and wind when the vehicle is moving. They can also protect occupants in the event of an accident by keeping them in the car. A driver or passenger is more vulnerable to ejection if a window is damaged before an accident or shattered during a crash.
  • Vehicle rollovers: Rollover accidents are one of the fatal car accidents in the U.S. It is also the fastest-growing cause of fatal injuries associated with vehicle ejections. More than half of fatalities caused by rollover accidents involved the ejection of an occupant. When a vehicle rolls upside down or sideways, doors and windows can fall off or break, leaving openings for occupant ejection. An ejected driver or passenger can get stuck in the windshield or under the vehicle in a rollover accident.
  • Large vehicles: Consumers who purchase large vehicles such as SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks often feel they will be safer in the event of a car crash. However, statistics show that larger vehicles are more likely to be involved in rollover accidents because of their size and high center of gravity. Occupants involved in rollover accidents are more likely to be ejected.

What Types of Injuries Can Ejection Car Accidents Cause?

While many ejection car accidents can be fatal, there are survivors of severe injuries after being ejected in a car crash. Serious injuries can result from drivers or passengers crashing through the windshield, striking another vehicle, or hitting the ground. The following are some common injuries associated with occupant ejection car accidents:

  • Broken bones: Bones can be broken or fractured due to the impact of a crash, hitting another object, or landing outside of the vehicle. Breaks and fractures to the arms and legs are the most common due to occupant ejection car accidents.
  • Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries are common in serious car accidents, particularly in crashes where occupants are ejected. In a complete spinal cord injury, there is often paralysis below the point of injury. With incomplete spinal cord injuries, there can be some movement and sensation. Damage to the spinal cord is traumatic and can be either life-ending or life-altering, as it typically involves some form of paralysis.
  • Traumatic brain injuries: Open head injuries can result from an occupant’s head hitting a surface or hard objects, such as a windshield, dashboard, or steering wheel. They can cause bruising, fractures to the skull, and external damage that alerts medical professionals to possible internal brain trauma. Closed head injuries are harder to identify and are caused by the brain being pushed against the skull. This can result in brain swelling and damage to brain tissue. Some traumatic head injuries can lead to paralysis.
  • Organ damage and internal bleeding: Any car accident with a forceful impact can result in organ damage and internal bleeding, particularly those involving vehicle ejection. Organ damage and internal bleeding are hard to detect and extremely serious, so an occupant ejected from a vehicle must seek medical treatment immediately.
  • Cuts and lacerations: Severe cuts and lacerations can occur when a driver or passenger is ejected through the glass of a windshield or window. Other serious injuries can be sustained if occupants are hit with foreign debris or land on hard surfaces.

How Can Ejection Car Accidents Be Prevented?

Following the rules of the road, staying alert, driving within the speed limit, and wearing a seat belt are well-known advisories for avoiding car accidents. There are also more specific ways to reduce the risk of occupant ejection car accidents and their life-threatening injuries.

The following are some ways to help prevent ejection car accidents:

  • Keep your vehicle properly maintained. Some ejection accidents are caused by defective parts, such as faulty seat belts, door latches, and windows. Motorists should check their cars regularly and make necessary repairs if parts are not functioning properly.
  • Wear a seat belt at all times. The NHTSA reports that wearing a seat belt is the best way to prevent a vehicle ejection. Wearing a seat belt can reduce a vehicle occupant’s chance of being fatally ejected by 45 percent and the risk of serious injury by 50 percent. All occupants, including passengers in the back seat, should wear seat belts when in your vehicle. It will eventually become a natural habit if you teach your children the importance of wearing seat belts and enforce the rules by not driving until everyone has buckled up.
  • Wear your seat belt correctly. Seat belt positioning is critical. Drivers and passengers should never place the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arms. If the fit is too small, the vehicle owner can ask the dealer or manufacturer for a seat belt extender. Also, older vehicles should be retrofitted with new restraint models for up-to-date and effective safety protection.
  • Secure the children. 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. If you have difficulty installing a car seat in your vehicle, you can go to your local police station for assistance. Ensure your child does not unlatch the seat belt on a car seat while driving.
  • Slow down. Speeding increases the likelihood of a car accident and the severity of injuries due to impact force. When drivers take care to follow the speed limit, they are less likely to be involved in an occupant ejection car accident.

What Should I Do if I am Injured in an Ejection Car Accident?

If you are injured in an ejection car accident, it is essential to ensure that proper medical treatment is received. It is also important to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to assist with the overwhelming legal progress. You have the right to bring forth claims for both economic and non-economic damages against the at-fault party.

There are several reasons to hire a car accident lawyer, including:

  • A skilled lawyer will help move the case along quickly and efficiently.
  • Recovering compensation after a car accident can be complicated. A lawyer will determine how much can be obtained, considering current and future medical bills, physical therapy and counseling, current and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
  • You will be assured that the accident site will be investigated properly, police and medical records examined, witnesses interviewed, and experts consulted.
  • You can focus on recovering from any physical and emotional trauma. Any time insurance companies, lawyers for other parties, drivers, or representatives request phone contact, your lawyer will handle all of those calls. Your lawyer will also take care of any necessary correspondence and other paperwork.
  • Multiple insurance policy claims are often filed after a car accident, which can be confusing. Hiring an experienced lawyer who knows the proper procedures after a car accident is advantageous. This includes requesting all necessary paperwork, filing all possible claims, knowing the statute of limitations, and understanding insurance policy coverage.
  • Some other individuals or entities may be held liable as well. For example, a manufacturer that has built a defective vehicle can be liable for injuries or fatalities. An auto mechanic who knowingly used faulty parts may be sued for damages and the manufacturer of the actual faulty parts.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Maximum Financial Compensation for Clients Injured in Occupant Ejection Accidents

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident after being ejected from a vehicle, you are urged to contact one of our Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will determine who is responsible for the accident. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the legal process. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.