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Garage Door Malfunction Leads to Serious Injury

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who explained that her “mother could not get a newly installed garage door opener to close her overhead garage door, and it came down quickly and bumped her head when she pulled the emergency release, leading to a concussion and neck injury, she wonders if the installer could be sued for installing something wrong?”

Great question, the emergency cord is designed to release the door and bypass the power opener when the electrical power is offline.

The caller explained that the power was on but the door opening motor would simply not move the door.

This was likely due to too much tension on the opener motor due to a malfunctioning door spring. The caller’s mother did not know it, but releasing the emergency pull cord let the full weight of the door (unbuffered by springs) to slam down. If there was no tension on the pull cord, releasing it would have resulted in the door staying in place and she could have gently lowered it.

While an automatic garage door represents a great convenience, it also can present a hazard if the components malfunction.

A garage door is simply a machine, it consists of springs, cables rollers and pulleys.

If a component fails, the door may not operate as expected.

For example, torsion spring components are under high tension and large doors are usually equipped with two of them. But if one of these springs fails, the motor that powers the door up and down when the button is pushed can get overstressed and stop functioning. And the door may be stuck in an open position, a closed position, or somewhere in between.

All automatic doors have a release that is used if the door loses power to permit you to open and close the door. If a user is unaware that a spring has broken however, and pulls the lever, the door can come down at a high velocity with much force and cause a serious injury.

Having a professional periodically inspect the door can be essential to see that the door is functioning properly. And that inspection will include all the mechanical components including the motor and the springs.

Garage doors should have automatic sensors on them. At least all that have been installed in the last 10 years will have sensors. Those sensors will prevent the door from closing if a child or a small animal goes between the sensors. You can test these yourself by triggering the sensor and seeing if the door will stop moving.

Heavy mechanical components, like the springs and the motor must be regularly checked by a professional inspector.

The caller indicated that an inspection of the garage door, along with a new motor install, had been completed a couple of days before the incident, and that her mother let the repairman replace all worn components. Under these circumstances, the repairman may very well be subject to legal liability if he failed to properly inspect, or made mistakes in making repairs.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.