It’s difficult to imagine the horror of being trapped inside a crumpled vehicle or unable to get out of a car that’s sinking in water. In such situations, vehicle occupants may have no recourse but to hope someone comes to their aid.

People who live through vehicle entrapment or submersion may experience long-lasting psychological trauma, not to mention severe physical injuries. They may feel profound guilt if they survived when other passengers didn’t, and the memories of what happened may interfere with their quality of life.

When a reckless driver is to blame for a crash that causes entrapment or submersion, the victims or their surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. If you need help recovering from a South Carolina vehicle entrapment or submersion accident, call us today at (803) 454-1200.

About Entrapment Accidents

The U.S Bureau of Transportation Statistics narrowly defines entrapment as a damaged vehicle or its components physically restraining a person. That definition doesn’t cover incidents of people being trapped by seat belts, by doors that won’t open, or by cargo in a vehicle. However, many people use the word entrapment to describe any situation in which a person cannot escape from inside a vehicle.

When a vehicle contorts in a crash and pins occupants inside, emergency responders must use special equipment designed for extrication, which essentially means they’re removing the vehicle from around the person. It’s a high-pressure scenario for responders, because inside the vehicle, a person may be in immediate need of medical care. The goal is to free occupants quickly without making their injuries worse.

About Submersion

While entrapment crashes cause severe and sometimes fatal injury, many submersion accidents cause no injuries; rather, drowning is the cause of death for many victims in these accidents, according to researchers at Canada’s University of Manitoba.

Tragically, occupants of a sinking vehicle may think they’re doing the right thing by calling 9-1-1. But safety advocates say it’s better to focus on getting out of the car right away – 60 seconds after entering the water, a car may be completely submerged, and escape may be difficult, if not impossible.

Automotive design influences the ease with which a person may escape a sinking vehicle. Power window systems may not operate once they’re wet, and breaking a window usually requires a special tool or heavy object. Now, some safety advocates fear a new law will actually pose a greater threat to occupants of sinking vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a new Ejection Mitigation rule, intended to keep occupants from being ejected through window glass in a crash. To comply with the rule, auto manufacturers have already begun making cars with laminated-glass windows, which cannot be broken from the inside, according to a distributor of two devices designed to do just that.

One woman opposed to the new federal rule is the grandmother of a teenage boy who died in a submersion accident. She said “ … strengthened glass will transform every vehicle into a tomb.”

Reducing Risk

With both entrapment and submersion crashes, policy makers and concerned citizens often focus on the outcome, but understanding why these crashes occur is equally important.

Submersion crashes are sometimes caused by poorly marked boat launches – in fact, there may be no indication that a road is leading to a boat ramp, and people may end up driving off the end of what looks like a road. In Tacoma, Washington, at least eight cars drove off a boat launch in a 17-year time span, resulting in four deaths, before the property owner installed a locking gate in 2015.

Improving warning signs and eliminating access to boat ramps, along with adequate guardrails near bodies of water, could help prevent submersion crashes. Entrapment crashes, however, may be harder to prevent, because of the many factors involved.

Crashes on highways are more likely to result in the kind of damage that can cause entrapment, especially when vehicles are exceeding the speed limit. Another contributing cause is car-truck collisions – the driver of a small car can end up pinned beneath a large commercial truck.

While some entrapment crashes may be unavoidable, many are caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, who are inattentive, or who are driving recklessly.

Helping You Recover

Louthian Law Firm is known for helping personal injury victims in South Carolina pursue justice. If an entrapment or submersion accident has harmed you or someone in your family, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Request a no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys by calling (803) 454-1200 or filling out our online contact form.