Until you’ve witnessed one or been involved in one, it’s hard to comprehend how quickly a serious traffic accident can happen. One second you may be rolling along doing everything “right” and the next, you are hit broadside, causing your car to careen into a tree and pinning you inside. Or an oncoming car drifts into your lane, forcing you off the road, down an embankment, and into a lake or pond. Or a car rear-ends you with such force that your car is pushed into Levisa Fork. While your brain tries to make sense of suddenly being trapped in a crumpled or sinking car, panic sets in as you try to get out. In some situations, you may be able to help yourself. In others, you may have to rely on a rescue.
No Hollywood depiction of entrapment or submersion can adequately portray the horror of being in such a situation. Along with severe physical injuries, people who experience it often have long-lasting psychological trauma, such as memories that interfere with their quality of life, or survivor’s guilt if they lived through it when other occupants did not. When a negligent driver is the cause of a motor vehicle crash that ends with submersion in water or entrapment, the victims of the accident or their surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering.
The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics limits the definition of entrapment to apply only when someone is physically restrained by a damaged vehicle or its components. The average person would likely expand that definition to apply any time someone cannot escape from inside a vehicle. Upon impact, vehicles can quickly become piles of twisted metal that barely resemble their original shape. Doors may no longer open, seatbelts may not unbuckle, windows may not operate, even cargo may shift – all of which can prevent drivers and passengers from getting out. In fact, special hydraulic rescue machines are often used by emergency responders to peel a mangled car further apart in order to extricate crash victims. Piston-rod hydraulic cutters, spreaders and rams are all used to pry open vehicles involved in accidents when a victim is trapped.
While a number of occupants in vehicle submersion crashes are already dead or severely injured by the time the vehicle enters the water, many more die from drowning than from trauma. In fact, the mortality rate associated with submersion is among the highest of all single-vehicle crashes, and a leading researcher believes that the number of vehicle submersion deaths is underreported by as much as half. That same researcher advises that if your vehicle has landed in water, don’t waste valuable time calling 9-1-1. A car can be fully submerged in as little as one minute, making escape difficult, if not impossible. And don’t bank on being able to hold your breath long enough for the pressure to equalize so you can open the door.
Instead, your best bet is to:
- Stay calm
- Pop your seatbelt and those of any children
- Open or break your windows
- Get out through the window (push children out first).
No one plans on having a traffic collision at all, let alone one that ends in entrapment or submersion. While some may be unavoidable, many are caused by another driver’s negligent actions such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving while distracted, driving while tired, or driving recklessly. Poorly marked roads/boat launches, insufficient signs, and inadequate guardrails near bodies of water also contribute to submersion crashes.
We Can Help
If an entrapment or submersion accident has harmed you or someone in your family, the experienced legal team at the Johnson Law Firm can help. We’ll fight hard to earn you every penny of the compensation you deserve. Protect your rights by calling the Johnson Law Firm at 606-433-0682 or by filling out our consultation form for a free assessment of your case. KY entrapment accident lawyer Billy Johnson has been named a Super Lawyer by U.S. News & World Report as well as an American Trial Lawyers Association Top 100 trial lawyer, and he is a proud member of the Million Dollar and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forums. He is a proven advocate with over 15 years’ experience who has handled litigation in the United States Court of Appeals, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and the United States Bankruptcy Court. Put his experience to work for you.