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Car Wash Accident Claims Life of One, Injures Others in Maryland

When we think of dangerous jobs, working at a carwash does not generally come to mind. However, driving vehicles that are owned by other people and working near moving vehicles are tasks that have at least some level of risk. Two weeks ago, one Maryland carwash was reminded just how dangerous the job can be.

An employee of the carwash was driving a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee out of the carwash to the drying area when the vehicle accelerated forward. It hit two other employees and dragged them beneath the vehicle until it came to a stop. One of those employees suffered a wrongful death at the hospital, and the other was left with serious injuries.

What caused the accident? Was it human error or was there a defect in the vehicle that caused it to suddenly accelerate? The Police Collision Reconstruction Unit is working to answer those questions, but their investigation may take weeks or even months.

This wrongful death and personal injury case involves many complex issues. First, the accident happened at work. Workers' compensation may be required to pay for the employees' medical care and wrongful death benefits. On the other hand, the injuries were caused by a car accident. The car owner's insurance may actually be responsible for paying the compensation.

And there is yet another angle. 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees have a reputation for sudden acceleration. In fact, in 2006, the International Carwash Association issued a warning to members that the vehicles posed a safety threat and should be handled very carefully. If a product defect is found to have caused the accident, the manufacturer could be held liable.

When it comes to obtaining the proper compensation for the victims and the family of the man who died, it may be important to seek compensation from all of these sources. Regardless of who is at fault, the accident is certainly a tragedy that the employees of the carwash will not soon forget. As one manager put it, "We're all in shock." He said that the company had never experienced a fatal workplace accident until this one. That said, officials with Maryland Occupational Safety and Health will also be conducting an investigation to make sure that proper safety procedures were in place to protect employees.

Source: Gazette.net, "Rockville car wash employees still coping with death, injuries," Nesa Nourmohammadi, 5 Jan 2011

7 Comments

I have had the priveldge of working at some of the busiest locations in America. Car washes are a beast of thier own at high traffic flow times. Ive read dozens of incidents where " sudden acceloration Problems" were to blame. Anyone w/ any type of management experience in the car wash industry should know what the cause of these accidents were. Ive seen more than a dozen of these accidents over a 18 year career. What happends is the employee who vacuums the vehicle usually takes out the flloor mat to clean underneath it. When putting it back the employee tends to toss them back into place so that he can begin vacuuming another part of the car or begin on another vehicle. Car washes are huge on tracking labor & these employees are pressed by management to hussle while working. After the employee vacuums the guests vehicle hes on to the next one. There is usually a different person who drives the vehicle into the begining of the car wash. Known as the prep area. What this employee doesnt know is that the vacuumer threw the floor mat onto the floor and the mat is sitting on top of the accelorator and the brake pedal. This is the cause of 95% of the accidents at a car wash! If the drive up employee somehow manages to control the vehicle without incident. Usually he is in such a hurry he doesnt have time to fix the problem and the car is sent down the conveyor for the employee driving off the vehicle. Ive seen cars smash threw brick walls, employees with compound fractures from being pinned between cars and several bumper to bumper accidents in the entrance to the tunnel. All were as a result of the floor mat sitting on top of the accelorator and brake.

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