Personal Injury Law – Car Accidents – Rollover

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Personal Injury Law – Car Accidents – Rollover

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Personal Injury Law – Car Accidents – Rollover

All car accidents have a risk of personal injury, but if you or a loved one were involved in a vehicle rollover, chances are it was a serious accident. Statistics show that whenever a rollover happens, the occupants are more likely to suffer traumatic injuries or death. For example, 22 percent of car accident deaths and 62 percent of Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) deaths occur during a vehicle rollover.

The greatest risk of rollover occurs in SUVs. Unlike cars, which tend to slide sideways when they go out of control, SUVs are more likely to flip over because they have a higher center of gravity. Based on studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 79 percent of fatalities in a single-SUV crash involve a rollover compared to only 45 percent for passenger vehicles. The estimated risk of rollover in an SUV is 30 percent compared to only 16 percent risk of rollover in a passenger vehicle. Despite these statistics, one in every four new vehicles sold in America today is a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).More about Car Accident Attorney San Antonio here

Generally, rollover litigation against SUV and other car manufacturers is based on product liability law. Product liability refers to the legal responsibility placed on manufacturers and sellers of defective products. When a vehicle rollover occurs, injury victims may use product liability law to claim that a defect in the design of the vehicle either caused the accident or made the injuries from the accident more severe. A critical element of the claim may include demonstrating that the defective design feature was reasonably avoidable.

The need for skilled legal representation is evident in light of the fact that more and more cases are being tried on their technical merits, and automobile manufacturers are responding to claims with overwhelming amounts of scientific and technical evidence and expertise.

Rules for Recovery in Rollover Litigation

Usually, in a regular personal injury claim, you need to show negligence or carelessness. However, cases against a vehicle manufacturer based on a vehicle’s defect are governed by different rules. Liability in motor vehicle defect cases is controlled by the doctrine of strict liability. If strict liability applies, the plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, but only that the product was defective. By eliminating the issue of manufacturer fault, the concept of no-fault or “strict” liability allows plaintiffs to recover where they otherwise might not.

These rules were created as a matter of social policy because, between the innocent victims who suffer harm from defective products and the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of such products, the product suppliers are in a better position to ensure against such losses.

Most rollover litigation against manufacturers of SUVs and other vehicles focus on two design defect theories: Vehicle Instability and Enhanced Injuries (Crashworthiness Defects).
Vehicle Instability – Drivers confronted with an object in the roadway – e. g., a car, deer, or person – tend naturally to turn the steering wheel sharply to avoid a collision. Often, the next reaction is to turn the wheel the other way to get back on the roadway. How should an SUV or other passenger vehicle perform under these extreme conditions?

Automobile manufacturers concede that a vehicle should not roll over on the flat pavement. Vehicles must be designed to withstand sudden steering or turning maneuvers by a driver. These are foreseeable actions given normal driving conditions. Accordingly, any evaluation of a rollover accident begins with an evaluation of the cause of the rollover. The first thing that must be determined is whether there was an external trip mechanism for the rollover. If there was a potential external source of the trip that caused the rollover, the defense will argue that the roll was inevitable. If there is no identifiable external trip mechanism, then it is possible that the rollover was due to the inherent instability of the vehicle.

Obviously, not all vehicles are inherently unstable. Some vehicles, however, are notable for their inherent instability. The most egregious examples of unstable vehicles on the market today are the Ford Bronco II, Suzuki Samurai, Jeep CJ-7, and Isuzu Trooper. A number of other popular sport-utility vehicles have also tested poorly in vehicle stability. The reason for their instability can be found in the basic laws of physics. The height of these vehicles, when compared with the track width, is such that the vehicles are prone to rollover during ordinary avoidance maneuvers. If a rollover accident involves one of these vehicles, and there is no trip mechanism, the potential for a vehicle instability case exists.

Recently, the NHTSA released a rating system for new-vehicle stability, using the vehicles’ stability index (SI) or static stability factor (SSF) to provide a method for consumers to compare makes, models, and years. NHTSA’s comparison is expressed as one to five stars, similar to its rating for crash safety. One star, representing the riskiest vehicles, translates into a risk of rollover of 40 percent or greater in a single-vehicle crash and an SSF of 1.03 or less. Five stars translate to a risk of rollover of less than 10 percent and an SSF of 1.45 or greater

Even if the rollover was not due to vehicle instability and was caused by an external trip mechanism, some courts have held SUV and other car manufacturers liable under the crashworthiness doctrine. The crashworthiness doctrine is a theory of recovery in which the manufacturer of a product can be held liable for the defective design or manufacture of a product if that product enhances an injury beyond that which would have otherwise occurred as the result of the accident. – In such cases, the design defect results in a lack of protection to the occupant once the rollover has begun. These cases usually involve serious or fatal head and neck injury due to seat belt failure and/or roof crush and/or roll bars. Crashworthiness has been broadly recognized and applied in automobile design cases and courts have held that manufacturers should take reasonable steps in design to minimize the injury-producing effect of impacts.

The crashworthiness doctrine permits a plaintiff to recover only for “enhanced injuries, ” which are those injuries he can prove he would not have sustained if he had been riding in a crash-worthy vehicle. If enhanced injuries cannot be shown, then the manufacturer has no liability under the crashworthiness doctrine.

The most common crashworthiness defect allegations in SUV and other rollover cases include the following: restraint system/seat belt defects, fuel system defects, seat design defects, roof crush defects, side-impact protection defects, door latch defects, and glass defects.

Pursuing a Rollover Claim
Each state has its own laws governing time limits for bringing product liability and motor vehicle claims. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible after any rollover accident to protect your rights. An attorney with experience in the areas of motor vehicle personal injury and product liability will best help you assess your claim and ensure a thorough evaluation of the likelihood of success of recovering damages for the injuries you have suffered.

By |2023-12-15T18:36:25+00:00November 29th, 2023|Blog, car accident|0 Comments

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