If someone is injured by a garage door accident or malfunction, the victim can file a lawsuit to get compensated for his or her injuries. Garage door injuries can range from minor to serious and can even be fatal.
A personal injury lawsuit involving a garage door accident can provide damages to compensate the victim for:
- Medical treatment;
- Lost income from missed work;
- Lost earning potential in the future; and
- Pain and suffering.
In fatal garage door accidents, the family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim allows certain family members to seek damages related to the loss of a loved one, including:
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Loss of financial support; and
- Loss of consortium.
The party responsible for garage door injuries may be held liable for their actions. After an accident, the victim can file a lawsuit against the negligent party, which may include:
- The property owner;
- Contractor or construction company; or
- Garage door manufacturer.
In this article, our California personal injury lawyers discuss the frequently asked questions about garage door accidents:
- 1. Can I file a lawsuit over a garage door injury?
- 2. What damages are available?
- 3. Who can I sue?
- 4. What happens if my child was killed in a garage door accident?
If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
If you have been injured in a garage door accident caused by someone else, California law allows victims to recover damages for their injuries. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, the victim can hold the parties responsible for the accident liable for money damages.
Even if it seems like a garage door injury was a random accident, there may be some party who is responsible for the accident. Liability in an elevator accident may be based on:
According to emergency room statistics, between 2013 and 2017 there were almost 87,000 injuries treated involving garage doors and automatic garage door openers. These often stemmed from garage door spring accidents.1
Common garage door accident injuries include:
- Pinching fingers;
- Crushing joints;
- Falling doors;
- Lacerations from sharp edges;
- Lacerations from broken garage door windows;
- Spring injuries; or
- Children trapped under closing garage doors.2
Compensatory damages are available to a plaintiff who files a lawsuit involving a garage door injury accident. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim for physical and emotional losses. Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit may include both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are intended to compensate the victim for out-of-pocket costs or costs they will have to spend in the future. This includes:
- Medical bills,
- Physical therapy,
- Long-term care,
- In-home nursing care,
- Prescription medications,
- Medical supplies,
- Lost income,
- Loss of earning capacity, and
- Property damage.
Non-economic damages may be more difficult to estimate but are intended to compensate the victim for more subjective damages, including:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of companionship, and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Example: Travis was very active 30-year-old who enjoyed participating in running events and triathlons. Travis was staying at a hotel before a race and walking past the hotel’s automatic garage door. Suddenly, the garage door dropped, hitting Travis in the back and pinning him to the ground.
Travis suffered nerve damage and spinal injuries. After the accident, Travis struggled to walk without assistance and suffered chronic back pain. Travis was not able to work for almost 1-year after the accident. Travis filed a lawsuit against the hotel and the garage door manufacturer.
If Travis wins his claim, his damages may include both economic and non-economic damages. Travis’ economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses;
- Physical therapy;
- Prescription medication;
- Future medical treatment; and
- Lost wages.
In addition, a jury may award Travis non-economic damages, which could include compensation for:
- Travis’ pain and suffering;
- Travis’ loss of enjoyment if he can no longer participate in the athletic events he enjoyed before the accident;
- Travis’ disfigurement; and
- Travis’ emotional distress caused by the accident.
The person or group responsible for a garage door accident depends on the cause of the accident. The accident could be caused by an individual’s negligence, a property owner’s failure to maintain the garage door, or a faulty garage door design.
In some cases, multiple parties may share responsibility for the accident. Defendants in a garage door accident personal injury lawsuit may include:
- Individual controlling the garage door opener;
- Garage door installer;
- Property owner;
- Property manager;
- Garage door maintenance company;
- Garage door manufacturer; or
- Building supply company.
Property owners are liable for dangerous conditions on the property that cause an accident or injury. Under premises liability laws, property owners owe a duty of care to visitors to keep the property safe from dangerous conditions. This can include a
- neighbor, or
- even a relative who is visiting the homeowner.
In order to win on a premises liability claim against the homeowner, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- The defendant owned, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed;
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.3
If a homeowner negligently installs or maintains the garage door on their property, resulting in an accident, then the homeowner may be responsible for the victim’s damages.
Example: Arnold and Danny were neighbors. Danny’s garage door was broken but he did not want to pay to fix it. Whenever Danny needed anything out of the garage, he just went in through the side door.
Arnold came over to Danny’s for a barbecue. Danny asked Arnold to grab an extra cooler out of the garage. Arnold went in through the side door of the garage and hit the button to open the garage door to carry out the cooler. The garage started opening and Arnold started to walk through when the garage door suddenly fell, hitting Arnold in the head.
Arnold may have a claim against Danny for damages. Danny owned the property and Danny may be considered negligent for not fixing the broken garage door and not warning Arnold about the faulty garage that caused the injury.
If the landlord owns, occupies, or controls the property, anyone injured by a garage door accident may be able to file a claim against the landlord. The party responsible for the accident may depend on the type of property and who had control over the garage.4
When the garage door accident involves commercial property, the landlord, property manager, or maintenance company may be responsible for the accident.
Depending on the accident, multiple defendants may share responsibility for the accident. However, even if the victim shared some responsibility for the accident, he or she may still be able to recover damages. California’s “comparative fault” laws allow the plaintiff to be awarded damages reduced by the plaintiff’s own share of the fault.5
If someone negligently installed or maintained the garage door, that individual may be liable to the victim for damages. In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that the defendant negligently caused the accident. To prove negligence, the plaintiff has to show:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached the duty of care through negligent action or inaction; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm or death.6
Property management or garage door repair companies may be responsible for inspecting garage doors and making sure they are in safe working order. This is often done by an employee of the company. However, under California’s “Respondeat Superior” laws, an employer can be held liable for an employee’s negligence.7
The reasons for holding an employer liable for the employee’s negligent conduct include:
- Preventing wrongful conduct for happening again;
- Increase the chance that the victim will be compensated; and
- To pass the cost of the injury on to the party who benefited financially from the enterprise that gave rise to the accident.89
Example: The sensor on Rebecca’s garage stopped working. Rebecca called Beach Bay Garage Door Repair to fix it. Johnny, the employee from Beach Bay Garage Door Repair showed up to fix the sensor.
Johnny thought it looked like a wire was loose and reattached the wire. Johnny didn’t bother testing it because he was pretty sure that was the cause of the problem. Johnny gave Rebecca the bill, said everything was fixed, and left.
Rebecca hit the garage door button but forgot something and ran back in. Rebecca expected the sensor to stop the closing door but the door kept closing, hitting Rebecca in the back and causing an injury.
Johnny said he was sorry but he didn’t have any money to pay for Rebecca’s injuries. However, Rebecca can file a personal injury claim against Beach Bay Garage Door Repair based on the employer’s vicarious liability for the negligence of the employee.
Garage door accidents are often caused by malfunctions that are not the fault of the homeowner or installer. Defective garage door parts can be dangerous from the moment the garage door system is packaged for sale.
An injury victim may not know if the garage door accident was caused by a defect or not. A personal injury lawyer can bring in an expert to look at the evidence and help determine what caused the faulty garage door accident.
Under California’s products liability laws, whoever designs, manufactures, or sells a defective product is strictly liable for any injuries caused by that defective product. This could include the garage door product manufacturer, distributor, or vendor.10
Product liability claims generally fall under one of the following categories of defects:
When the injury victim brings a product liability claim for a defective garage door accident, the plaintiff does not have to show that anyone was negligent. The plaintiff generally has to show the following:
- The defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold the product;
- The product contained a manufacturing, design, or warning defect when it left the defendant’s possession;
- The plaintiff suffered harm; and
- The product defect was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.12
A number of children have died or suffered a permanent brain injury as a result of accidents involving automatic garage doors. Most of these accidents involve a child getting trapped under a closing garage door that failed to reverse. Many older garage door sensors fail to reverse when encountering a child trapped under the closing door.13
When a child is fatally injured in a garage door accident, the family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to make sure those responsible are held accountable. A wrongful death lawsuit will also allow the family to be compensated for the loss of a loved one.14
Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is based on the family’s losses as a result of the family member’s death. This may include:
- Funeral costs;
- Burial expenses;15
- Loss of financial support;16
- Loss of service; and
- Loss of affection.
When a child is killed in a garage door accident, the parents may be able to file a lawsuit. When an adult is killed in a garage door accident, the following may be able to file a claim in California:
- Spouse or domestic partner;
- Surviving children;
- Grandchildren (if there are no surviving children); or
- Anyone else who has a claim under California intestate succession laws.
Call us for help…
If you have any questions about garage door injury lawsuits or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements.
- Sprecher v. Adamson Companies (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 405. See also California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 406. (“… you must then decide how much responsibility each has by assigning percentages of responsibility to each person listed on the verdict form. The percentages must total 100 percent.”).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
- Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. (1986) 41 Cal.3d 962, 967 (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s torts committed within the scope of the employment.”)
- Mary M. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 202.
- Bailey v. Filco, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1552.
- Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560 (“A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way.”)
- See CACI Series 1200 — Products Liability.
- Automatic garage door openers: hazard for children. Pediatrics. 1996 Oct;98(4 Pt 1):770-3. Kriel RL, Gormley ME Jr, Krach LE, Luxenberg MG, Bartsh SM, Bertrand JR.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
- Vander Lind v. Superior Court (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 358.
- See Allen v. Toledo (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 415. See also California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3921.