No need to wear seat belts for wheelchair users in pedestrian traffic

Federal Constitutional Court: disabled person has no complicity in accident
Karlsruhe (jur). Wheelchair users do not need to buckle up in their wheelchairs with a lap belt in pedestrian traffic. If you are strapped in a wheelchair by a car while crossing a street, you may not have to pay a possible compensation for pain and suffering because of "contributory negligence", the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled in a decision published on Thursday, July 7, 2016 (ref .: 1 BvR 742/16).

This was a right for a disabled student who is dependent on an electric wheelchair because of muscle atrophy, a progressive muscle loss. The wheelchair had a lap belt so that the disabled person can be buckled up in the car and transported safely.

In November 2014, when the student did not cross the street with his wheelchair on his way to school, he was hit by a car. He fell out of the wheelchair and suffered a bruised skull on the left.

He demanded compensation from the person who caused the accident. The dispute was 700 euros.

The district court of Bretten in Baden-Württemberg confirmed the claim for pain and suffering. Because of "contributory negligence", however, the payment was reduced by a third. The student should have buckled up in the wheelchair with the lap belt.

Although general seat belt fastening is not mandatory in pedestrian traffic, there is also an obligation to prevent possible damage and injuries. Here the expert had determined that the pupil would not have fallen out of the wheelchair at all.

With this decision, the student saw himself discriminated against because of his disability. He must always buckle up, his freedom of action is restricted. He could not unbuckle himself and was always dependent on the help of others, according to his constitutional complaint.

In its decision of June 20, 2016, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional complaint was "obviously justified". Disability is at a disadvantage.

According to the law, contributory negligence can in principle be assumed if the care “that a tidy and reasonable person uses to avoid personal damage” is disregarded. However, it is not evident here that a “neat and sensible person who is dependent on a wheelchair” always puts on the lap belt on the wheelchair.

The lap belt only serves to secure the wheelchair user when transporting the car. The mere presence of the belt therefore does not lead to a greater duty of care for the disabled in pedestrian traffic. This would be disadvantageous for road users without disabilities and also for wheelchair users who - legally - have no lap belt on their wheelchair. The district court must now make a new decision about the compensation for pain and suffering. fle / mwo

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