Automatic Gate Injuries and Deaths: More Common Than You Might Think
Automatic, electrically powered gates secure a range of commercial and residential properties, including businesses, gated communities, apartment and condominium complexes, parking garages, and even some private homes.
Unfortunately, heavy motorized gates pose their own risks, especially if they’re defectively designed, improperly installed, or lack appropriate warning signs and safety devices. In fact, every year, hundreds of people – including children – around the United States suffer severe and potentially fatal injuries after being struck, entrapped, or crushed by an unsafe automated gate.
Our Child Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing infants, toddlers, and kids injured due to defective products and negligent acts, earning national recognition for their aggressive pursuit of justice on behalf of injured children and their families. If an automatic, electrically powered gate hurt your son or daughter, please call our law firm toll-free at 877-875-2927 to speak with an attorney and learn more about your legal rights.
What to Know About Motorized Gates
Depending on the buyer’s needs, electric power gates are available in a range of designs, including:
- Electrically powered rolling gates
- Automatic entry gates
- Roll-up doors
- Automated garage doors
- Electric driveway gates
- Automatic security gates
- Motorized sliding gates
- Swinging gate and swinging gates or dual swing gate systems
To ensure ease of access, many of these gates are equipped with a motorized automatic sensor that does not require human operation. In other cases, authorized entrants may be given an electric key fob or another device to activate the gate.
Some automatic gates are also equipped with an intercom that allows visitors to contact someone on the premises – usually an owner, occupant, or security guard – to gain access to the property.
Voluntary safety standards adopted by the Underwriters Laboratory in March 2000 require that all automated gates have at least two mechanisms to prevent entrapment, including a sensing device that will reverse the gate if it encounters an obstruction when opening or closing; and a secondary sensing mechanism, such as an electric eye or an edge sensor that will reverse the gate if an obstacle is detected.
The UL standards also call for:
- Elimination of all gaps over 2.25 inches.
- Installation of controls far enough from the gate so users cannot come into contact with the gate while operating the controls.
- Installation of controls where the user has a full view of the gate operation.
- Elimination of pinch points.
- Installation of guarding on exposed rollers.
- Posting of warning signs on each side of the gate.
Unfortunately, many older automatic gates – especially those located at private homes, gated communities, and apartment/condo complexes – predate these standards and lack some or all of the recommended safety features.
Injuries and Deaths Linked to Motorized and Electric Powered Gates
Over the past 20 years, hundreds of people have been injured or killed by heavy electric gates.
In 2001, a study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commissioned (CPSC) found that at least 32 people – including 20 kids — had died in accidents that involved automatic motorized gates since 1985. During that period, more than 2,000 people, including 800 children, had visited hospital emergency rooms in the United States each year because of automatic gate injuries. The CPSC also estimated motorized gates had seriously injured more than 25,000 people between 1990 and 2000.
Although injuries and deaths have dropped substantially since the UL adopted stricter voluntary standards in 2000, accidents involving heavy electric gates still send around 300 Americans to the emergency room every year. In recent years, the CPSC has also received reports of several gate-related fatalities, including an 8-year-old child, an 11-year-old, and a 12-year-old.
Injuries most commonly associated with motorized gate accidents include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Spinal cord injury and paralysis
- Facial injuries and lacerations
- Severe neck and spine contusions
- Bone fractures, including broken arms and legs
While adults were more likely to become entangled in gates located at entrances to businesses or factories, toddlers and other small children were usually injured at homes and apartments, typically while playing around a gate or standing on one while it was moving.
How an Automatic Motorized Gate Can Cause a Serious Injury
There are several ways a heavy, electrically powered gate can cause injury:
- Crushing: Kids can be crushed if they are standing in the path of an automatic gate that’s in the process of closing.
- Impact: Toddlers and other children are often struck by a closing gate as they move out of the path of closure.
- Entrapment: Children have become trapped by motorized gates as they open and close.
- Hooking: Injuries can occur when an article of clothing or a body part is caught on a protruding section of the gate.
- Drawing In: Injuries are also likely if a piece of clothing is caught on the gate and drags a child into the mechanism.
- Additional automatic gate dangers include electrocution, hydraulic bursting (exploding mechanisms), and other hazards resulting from manufacturing defects or improper installation.
According to the CPSC, most gate-related injuries and deaths involve public access gates around communities, condominiums complexes, and apartment buildings, which sometimes have older installations that do not meet current safety standards.
Keeping Kids Safe Around Electric Power Gates
If you live in a gated community or are visiting a property with an automated gate, make sure your son and daughter know to:
- NEVER play on or around automatic gates
- NEVER stick hands, legs, or head through openings on gates. These are called entrapment zones or pinch points.
Pedestrians should NEVER walk through an automated gate system that is intended for vehicle traffic only. A separate entrance for pedestrian traffic is a must.
If you’re considering an automatic gate for your driveway or home, it should only be installed by a professional. Ensure the installer leaves a copy of the operations manual upon completion. Take the time to lubricate the pulley, chains, and other vital parts of the gate system when and as directed by the manufacturer.
You might also want to consider having extra safety features installed, such as:
- Infrared sensors that prevent an automatic gate from opening or closing whenever an obstruction is detected.
- Pressure-sensitive ribs that stop a gate from closing whenever they encounter an object in its path. Some will even reopen the gate.
- Pressure limitation monitors that detect the average amount of pressure required to close an automatic gate. The monitor will shut the gate off if it detects pressure above normal levels.
All automatic gates should undergo annual inspections by a professional. Avoid do-it-yourself repairs when something breaks.
“My Child Was Hurt by a Motorized Automatic Gate. Can I Sue?”
If a motorized automatic gate hurt your son or daughter, you might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit on their behalf if the injury resulted from negligence on the part of a manufacturer, installer, or property owner.
For example, you might have a claim against a homeowner or property management if a powered gate was poorly maintained, lacked the appropriate warning signs or safety features, or was operated improperly.
The company that installed the gate could be liable if improper installation resulted in or contributed to an injury. You might also be able to sue the gate manufacturer if a defective gate or faulty component hurt your child.
Finally, you may be eligible to pursue wrongful death claims against the responsible parties if a malfunctioning or defective automatic gate fatally injured your child.
Contact an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer Today
As a nationally recognized Child Injury Lawyer, Attorney Jeffrey Killino has successfully handled a wide range of injury and wrongful death cases involving defective products and preventable accidents.
If your son or daughter was hurt by an automatic, electrically powered gate, Jeffrey Killino and his legal staff will commit the resources necessary to ensure your family obtains the compensation and justice you deserve. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today at 1-877-875-2927.