Automatic Sliding Door Accidents
When entering a Costco, 7-11, or Target, the last thing you expect is to get injured by automatic sliding doors. All automatic doors are constructed and installed with numerous safety devices.
Unfortunately, automatic door accidents still happen. And when they do, they can cause serious injury to patrons.
Property owners are responsible for maintaining the safety of their patrons under premises liability law. Were you injured in an automatic sliding door accident? You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner who failed to fulfill their duty or the sliding door manufacturer who produced the malfunctioning doors.
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you obtain a fair settlement for the losses you have endured. Call (888) 424-5757 or use this online contact form for a free consultation to get in touch with one of our Chicago premises liability lawyers today.
Types of Automatic Doors
There are two main categories of automatic door systems:
- Low-Energy Door System: Low-energy doors open with a push of a button. The door motor control opens the doors for a certain amount of time (owners can adjust the timer) and cannot be reactivated until the button is pressed again. These low-energy doors are practical for areas with low-volume traffic.
- High-Energy Door System: High-energy doors open automatically when it senses a person entering or exiting the premises. They are typically found in high-traffic establishments, such as large grocery stores, convenience stores, and office buildings. When the door starts to close, it will reopen again when it detects another presence moving near the doors.
Both low-energy and high-energy door systems are perfectly safe when installed and maintained appropriately. However, a lack of maintenance and regular testing can make way for automatic sliding door defects, such as faulty sensors or malfunctioning timers.
Causes of Automatic Door Malfunctions
Automatic door accidents don’t just happen out of the blue. Usually, they occur due to a malfunction in the doors or door hardware, which can stem from:
- Lack of Maintenance: General wear and tear combined with the lack of proper maintenance can easily lead to faulty overhead safety sensors, broken motor controls, and malfunctioning sensor mats. A property or store owner must inspect their automatic doors regularly to determine potential hazards and call for service repairs as needed.
- Weather-Related Wear and Tear: Snow, ice, and ultraviolet rays can degrade an automatic door sensor. When left unaddressed, doors with a malfunctioning sensor would either fail to open, remain open, or act erratically upon sensing a presence.
- Improper Installation: In some cases of automatic door injuries, the doors were improperly installed and tested. Every property owner must test their doors for proper functioning before being allowed for general use.
- Manufacturer Defects: Automatic door injury lawsuits can also hold self-opening door manufacturers accountable if their product is found defective. Product defect typically occurs in the design process (before the product is sent to the assembly line) or the manufacturing process where the product is being put together. An automatic door injury can sometimes stem from inadequate safety warnings, improper labeling, and insufficient instructions.
Types of Injuries Caused by Faulty Sliding Doors
The types of automatic sliding door injuries usually depend on the severity of the malfunction. The most common type of sliding door injuries include:
- Pinch-Point Accidents: A pinch-point accidentoccurs when a victim’s limb gets caught between the moving parts of a sliding door. This type of injury is also common in revolving doors.
- Blunt Force Injuries: Sliding doors that fail to open, close too soon, or swing in the wrong direction can cause blunt force trauma to the person trying to enter or exit the building. Malfunctioning swinging doors are also one of the main culprits of this type of injury.
- Lacerations: If an automatic glass door hits a person hard enough to break, the shards can cause lacerations. If the cut is deep enough, it can lead to severe bleeding and even loss of consciousness.
- Overhead Crushis common with automatic garage doors. If an automatic garage door closes too quickly or with too much force, it can result in serious injury to the person's neck, head, or brain. In worst cases, an automatic garage door can fall entirely off the frame and crush the person standing under it.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Anyone can fall victim to an automatic door accident, but these people are most at risk:
- People With Physical Disabilities: People with disabilities, especially wheelchair users, may not be able to move out of the way in time or hold off closing doors. The same goes for people using crutches or walkers.
- Small Children: Door sensors may not detect the presence of children that are too small. If they fall over, they risk getting caught between the doors or hit by a swinging door.
- Elderly People: The elderly may not be able to hold off a door that closes too soon. Moreover, even the slightest impact with a sliding door can cause them to fall over. Falls are dangerous for the elderly as they can easily cause head and bone injuries.
- Patrons Carrying Multiple Bags: People carrying multiple bags may not be able to react fast enough in case an automatic door malfunctions. People wrangling bags and small children are also at risk.
The Legal Duty of Property Owners and Automatic Door Manufacturers
Every property owner is fully responsible for ensuring all patrons' reasonable safety and security on their property. They must ensure that their sliding doors are property maintained by:
- Performing routine inspections and repairs
- Replacing or repairing faulty parts or mechanisms
- Calling professional repair services if needed
A property owner’s failure to properly fix hazards can lead them to be held completely liable for injuries caused by their faulty automatic door systems. But in some cases, a property owner is not the only one at fault--or is not accountable entirely.
Liability of a Property Owner
The property owner’s responsibility is to ensure that their automatic doors are properly maintained. If a malfunctioning sliding door causes injury to someone on their property, their liability in the accident may depend on the victim’s status, which can be either of the following:
- Invitee: An invitee is someone who comes to the property for the benefit of the landowner, such as a paying customer. Every business owner owes the highest standard of care to all invitees and may be held liable if they fail to ensure their safety. Invitees are the most common types of victims in personal injury lawsuits.
- Licensee: A licensee is a person that enters the property for non-business or commercial purposes, such as a personal friend or social guest.
Liability of a Manufacturer
Product liability laws obligate manufacturers to provide safe products to their consumers. However, something can go wrong along the way, leading to product defects.
Defects typically occur in the design, manufacturing, and transportation processes, which are under the manufacturer’s responsibility. If all the evidence points to manufacturer error, a store owner and the injured party can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
Common areas where a product defect can occur include:
- Design Defects: These are faults that can happen before the product is forwarded to the assembly line, leading to the product being inherently dangerous. Design defects usually result in full-scale recalls, and the company responsible for the design of the products could be held accountable for the damages.
- Manufacturing Defects: These defects usually occur on the assembly line. They can stem from small mistakes in the manufacturing chain to repeating errors that lead to large-scale recalls. In cases like these, the manufacturing company could be liable for the damages.
- Marketing Defects: These are defects that occur during the marketing of a product. They include improper labeling, inaccurate instructions, or inadequate warnings.
Filing an Automatic Sliding Door Accident Lawsuit
Personal injury cases resulting from faulty automatic sliding doors typically involve the legal concept of premises liability. If an automatic door system injured you, you must prove that the property or store owner was negligent in their duty to maintain a safe environment for all their patrons.
The following must be evident in your case to successfully establish negligence:
- Duty: You must show that the defendant (property owner) owed a legal obligation to you under the case’s particular circumstances. In an automatic sliding door lawsuit, the property owner’s primary responsibility is to ensure that their doors are in proper working order.
- Breach: You must show that the defendant breached said duty by either performing specific actions or failing to act appropriately. For example, a landowner breaches their duty of care by failing to repair a faulty sliding door.
- Causation: You must prove that the defendant’s actions or lack thereof caused your injuries.
- Damages: You must be able to show that you have endured specific damages.
Claimable Damages in an Automatic Door Accident Lawsuit
Automatic door injury lawsuits usually involve the following damages:
- Medical Costs: This includes emergency transportation, hospitalization, medication, and other processes necessary to address the injuries sustained.
- Loss of Income: You can sue for the income you’ve lost while recovering from your injuries, including lost wages, revenue, bonuses, and commissions.
- Pain and Suffering: Aside from physical pain, you may seek compensation for fear, anxiety, mental distress, and other mental and emotional effects of the accident. Your personal injury lawyer can help prove this with medical bills, psychiatric records, and photo evidence of your injuries.
- Disability: In rare cases, an automatic sliding door injury can lead to temporary or permanent disability. Either way, you can seek compensation for the implications of disability, such as reduced earning potential, loss of quality of life, etc.
- Property Damage: If you had personal belongings on you that were damaged when the door slammed on you, you might get reimbursed for their costs.
Reach out to our Chicago law firm to discuss the potential damages you may claim under your lawsuit. If the accident caused the death of a loved one, you might also be able to sue for wrongful death.
The Statute of Limitations in Illinois
Under the 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 5/13-202, you have two years to get the initial documentation of your case filed in court.
The clock starts on the date of the accident that caused your injuries. The defendant will likely file a “motion to dismiss if you miss the deadline.” Unless you are entitled to extra time, the court will dismiss your case, even if you have sustained severe injuries.
However, Illinois courts grant certain exceptions to the two-year deadline. Here are examples of circumstances that can modify the statute of limitations:
- If the injured party had been under a legal disability. They will have two years to file the lawsuit once the disability is removed.
- If the injured person was a minor at the time of the accident. The clock will not start until they turn 18.
- If the defendant left Illinois after the accident before you could file the lawsuit. Their period of absence may not be counted as part of the two years.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations for your automatic sliding door lawsuit, contact our Chicago law firm today at (888) 424-5757.
Sufficient evidence is necessary to establish negligence, causation, and damages in any personal injury or premises liability claim. Here are several documents that you may need:
- Medical records and bills
- Photos and videos of your injuries
- Psychiatric records to prove mental distress
- Documentation of how the door functions
- Police reports (if someone called the police to the accident scene)
To prove the negligence of the property owner’s expectation, you may also need testimony from an automatic door expert. For example, if the door’s sensor malfunctioned due to a lack of maintenance, your party must be able to prove that it was the owner's fault, not the manufacturer's.
The Role of Your Attorney
If you sustained an automatic door injury and have reason to believe that it was the fault of a property owner’s negligence, call a personal injury law firm as soon as possible. Aside from serving as your legal representation in court, an attorney can help you:
- Determine who should be held liable
- Prove the property owner’s negligence (e.g., failing to ensure their automatic sliding doors are properly maintained)
- Collect proper evidence
- Obtain a fair settlement or verdict based on your losses
- Communicate with insurance companies on your behalf
Things to Remember When Filing an Automatic Door Injury Lawsuit
The most important thing to remember when filing an automatic door lawsuit is to submit documentation of your case to the court within two years of the underlying accident or incident. Failure to do so can result in the court dismissing your case unless there are rare circumstances that can allow you to extend the deadline.
Contact a law firm as soon as possible to get started on your case. Your personal injury attorney can help you gather evidence to prove the negligent party’s contribution to your injuries and get the ball rolling in court.
General Liability Insurance
Property owners have general liability insurance to cover them in accidents like these. The defendant’s insurance company may reach out to you and offer a settlement after the accident.
However, most insurance companies offer low settlement values to protect their bottom line. If you are in dire need of cash, you may accept the settlement. But if you want to maximize the value of your claim or lawsuit, it’s best to contact a law firm for legal advice.
Should you choose not to accept the settlement from the insurance company, avoid communicating with them without the guidance of your lawyer. On a particular note, anything you say or do in the presence of the insurance representative may affect your settlement or verdict value.
Notable Sliding Door Case
In 2015, an Illinois businessman was awarded $21.5 million in damages after getting hit in the head by a sliding door on a cruise ship. It is one of the most significant recent verdicts from a federal court.
Immediately after the accident, the cruise ship doctor told the victim he suffered a facial contusion and a chipped tooth and diagnosed him with post-concussion syndrome. Neurological tests later found that the victim suffered a minor brain injury, resulting in health problems that the victim still suffers from today.
The said victim suffered seizures, vertigo, and memory loss from the accident. Luckily, the incident was caught on camera. However, the victim “didn’t get better” and “still has troubles with things that would have been simple before,” said his lawyer.
The victim, a former pilot, said that he will be on seizure medication for the result of his life and will never fly a plane again.
The Illinois businessman was not the only victim of a sliding door accident on the same cruise ship line (Holland America Line). Dozens of other passengers have also been hurt by sliding doors on other vessels from the cruise company.
Seek Legal Guidance From an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
Automatic pedestrian doors are unlikely causes of accidents. Nevertheless, accidents involving a malfunctioning automatic door still happen, although rarely.
Were you injured by faulty automatic doors on another person’s property? Was it the negligence of that person that caused your injuries? If so, contact our Chicago law firm right away to see how you can seek compensation for your losses.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you file your case. Receive a free consultation from our law firm by calling (888) 424-5757 or filling out the contact form on our website.
All sensitive information you provide will remain confidential under a strict attorney-client relationship.