Rollover Accidents Turn Deadly Fast
Rollover accidents are among the most deadly vehicle accidents. A rollover occurs when a vehicle, often an SUV, turns over onto its roof or side. All cars can rollover, but automobiles with high centers of gravity, such as SUVs and pickups, are particularly susceptible to rolling over.
It is important to act quickly in obtaining an experienced attorney following a rollover accident, so that critical evidence can be secured and an investigation is started as soon as possible. Rollover accident cases are among the most demanding and expensive cases to fight. Your attorney should be experienced with rollover cases and have the financial resources to retain experts and investigators and prepare a thorough case.
Facts About Rollover Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report in March 2007 showing the true deadly nature of SUV and other single vehicle rollover accidents. According to that report, in 2004, the latest year for which data is complete, 2.7% of occupants in rollover accidents were killed, while only .2% of the occupants in vehicles that crashed, without rolling over, were killed. While less than 3% of all vehicles involved in crashes rolled over, 33% of all deaths occurring as a result of these crashes were in rollover accidents. The rate of occupants suffering fatalities or incapacitating injuries in a rollover accident was a substantial 11% in passenger cars, pickups and SUVs, and 8% in vans.
Unfortunately, the numbers of SUV and other vehicle rollover accidents are increasing. The March 2007 NHTSA report shows an increase in rollover accidents:
- An astounding 275,637 passenger vehicles were involved in rollovers. This is a 16% increase from 1994.
- In 2004, 10,553 people were killed in SUV and other vehicle rollovers, up 17.5% from 1994. This stands in stark contrast to the fact that the number of people killed in crashes where the automobile did not roll over was down 3.6% during the same time period.
Rollovers are much more likely to occur in sports utility vehicles (SUV’s) than in any other type of vehicle. According to the NHTSA’s 2007 report, in 2004, of vehicles involved in a single vehicle crash 23% of SUV’s rolled over, 17% of pickups rolled over and 10% of passenger cars rolled over. The bottom line is that SUV rollovers were 2.3 times more likely to occur in a single vehicle crash than passenger cars. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 60% of the people who died in SUV accidents in 2005 were in SUV rollover accidents.
SUVs have a high center of gravity, which make them more likely to tip and roll over than passenger cars, especially in a single vehicle crash. Despite the fact that other accident types have declined in the last decade, SUV rollovers are on the rise.
SUVs are also susceptible to “untripped” rollovers. This commonly happens in accident avoidance situations, when drivers turn the wheel suddenly to avoid hazards. Often, automobile manufacturers attempt to place the blame for SUV rollover accidents on the drivers, claiming that the rollover accidents are caused by the turning of the steering wheel too sharply, or more than what a reasonable driver would do under the circumstances. However, even normal accident avoidance maneuvers can cause catastrophic rollover accidents. Tests have shown that SUV rollovers can, under certain circumstances, occur from a slight turn of the wheel.
SUV Models with Poor Rollover Accident History
Certain models of SUVs are substantially more prone to rollover accidents than are others. The Ford Explorer has the highest risk of rollover accidents according to an NHTSA test. Other models with a significant history of rollover accidents include the Jeep CJ, the Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep Cherokee.
Additional Passengers Increase the Likelihood of Rollovers, Especially in Fully Loaded 15-Passenger Vans
Additional passengers in vehicles with a high center of gravity mean an increased risk of a rollover accident; there is more weight at an already high center of mass. According to the NHTSA, a loaded fifteen-passenger van has a dramatically increased risk of rollover. Fully loaded fifteen-passenger vans have less resistance to rollover and are more difficult to control in emergency situations than other vehicles.
Rollover Accident Cases are Expensive and Complex: Choose Your Attorney Carefully
If you or a loved one has been involved in a vehicle rollover, time is of the essence. It is critical that you contact an accident attorney experienced in all aspects of large and complex auto accident case management. Preserving the evidence in a rollover accident is necessary for pursuing products liability cases, as well as government entity claims for road design defects and dangerous conditions, which are common causes of these accidents. The following tasks often need to be performed without delay:
- arranging to have your vehicle stored safely in order to preserve its evidentiary value,
- conducting interviews of all eye witnesses and bystanders, while the accident is fresh in their minds, including police, paramedics, and tow truck operators,
- reviewing all police and other investigative reports
- investigating the accident scene with appropriate experts and investigators,
- arranging for qualified experts to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and its systems, and
- arranging for qualified experts to explore the causes of the rollover accident and injuries.
Many factors make rollover cases difficult and expensive to litigate. Choosing the right attorney can make a critical difference in the outcome of a rollover accident claim. Often more than one party bears responsibility for causing the rollover accident or increasing the injuries. Therefore, rollover accident cases can involve multiple defendants. Careful investigation by your attorney and retained experts is necessary to identify all the potential responsible parties.
SUV and other vehicle rollover cases are expensive to take to trial, and often involve extensive testing and discovery. In order to provide proper representation to a client in an SUV or other rollover accident, the accident attorney must know the factors that contributed to the accident and develop an understanding of the mechanics and dynamics of the particular SUV or vehicle involved. It is often important to conduct tests and reconstruct or model the accident using computer-aided technology to recreate the rollover accident and to present your case to a judge or jury in a manner that helps them to understand how the incident occurred.
The manufacturers of SUV and other vehicles and of their component parts have extensive resources to litigate these cases. They will spend millions of dollars and much time and resources trying to demonstrate that their vehicles are crashworthy and well designed, and they will defend each case vigorously. To counter their tactics, your attorney must have substantial experience and financial resources to prosecute your case as vigorously or more vigorously and effectively as the defense.
What Exactly is Personal Injury?
Compensation for Your Injuries in Rollover Accidents
Common injuries occurring in rollovers include:
- Spinal cord injuries, paralysis, paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Loss of limbs
- Internal organ damage
- Head injuries and brain damage
The injuries caused by rollover accidents can have a devastating financial impact. The losses for which a victim might receive compensation include loss of past and future wages, medical and hospital bills and actual expenses related to the rollover accident. A victim may also recover current and future pain, disfigurement, disability, diminished enjoyment of life, the body’s decreased ability to fight off infections and illness, and a decreased life expectancy.
Single Vehicle Rollovers
Rollover accidents are normally single car accidents. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 75% of all rollovers occur in single car accidents. This type of rollover accident often occurs after a driver has lost traction and begins to slide sideways, such as in snow or icy conditions. While sliding, the automobile might “trip” and begin a rollover. Common factors that cause SUV’s and other vehicles to “trip” and rollover on are soft-road shoulders, uneven ground, or roadside objects such as a curb or guardrail. According to the NHTSA, about 95% of rollovers are “tripped.” A central contested issue in the litigation of these rollover accident cases is whether the vehicle design made it more likely that the vehicle would tip over instead of continuing its slide.
Products Liability: Determining Fault for Injuries Caused by Defective Products in Rollover Accidents
Manufacturers of vehicles and their parts as well as others in the distribution chain, including wholesalers and dealers, are responsible for ensuring that passenger cars, pick-ups, vans and SUVs and their component parts are safe and do not pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the public. Injuries in a rollover accident that result from the defective manufacture of a car or SUV, or their parts, can subject the manufacturer to damages under the area of law known as products liability. A court might find a defendant in a rollover accident liable under any of three product liability theories: negligence, breach of warranty or strict liability.
Defective Tires and Road Hazards as Factors in Rollover Accidents
Tread separation and road hazards are a leading cause of SUV and other vehicle rollovers. In defective tire cases, both the automobile and tire manufacturer may be held strictly liable for defectively designed or manufactured tires.
If tread separation occurs at highway speeds, it can be very difficult for the average driver to maintain control of a vehicle. Nevertheless, a standard defense of automobile and tire manufacturers is to blame the driver of negligence for failure to maintain the tires properly inflated for road conditions, or failure to maintain proper control over the vehicle.
SUV and other vehicle rollovers are also often caused by impacts with road hazards, and by the drivers’ attempts to avoid them. Common hazards include rocks, debris, potholes, freshly repaired road surfaces and the absence of guardrails. It is critical to have well-qualified experts to thoroughly investigate all possible causes of the accident, including tread separation and impacts with road hazards. Expert testimony on the causation of accidents and injuries is subject to a high legal standard and must to the extent possible eliminate all other causes of the accident and injuries even when not raised by the defense. You need an accident lawyer with exceptional skills and expertise to navigate this and other potential pitfalls in SUV and other vehicle rollover accidents.
Higher Speeds and Rollover Accidents
Driving at higher speeds increases the likelihood of vehicle rollover accidents. This includes driving at excessive speeds, but also driving on the highway at the posted speed limit. The probability of rollover accidents increases dramatically at higher speeds. In 2004, according to the NHTSA report, the probability of a rollover accident involving a single vehicle was:
- 3% in a passenger car at speeds less than 30 miles per hour, compared to 16% at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour,
- 4% in a van at speeds less than 30 miles per hour, compared to 26% at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour,
- 7% in a pickup at speeds less than 30 miles per hour, compared to 30% at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour, and
- 15% in an SUV at speeds less than 30 miles per hour, compared to 40% at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour.
A Case May Exist Even Where the Driver in a Rollover Accident is at Fault
In most states, even when a driver is partially at fault for an accident, the manufacturers of the vehicle or its defective parts, dealerships, retailers, government agencies, or other third parties who bear some fault can be held liable to the extent of their percentage of culpability, for driver or passenger injuries. Therefore, the fact that a driver may be found to bear fault should not discourage a potential claimant from consulting an accident attorney on a rollover accident case. If you have been involved in such an accident, you should contact a reputable and experienced accident attorney without delay.
Also although a driver may bear fault in a rollover accident, that driver may be entitled to pursue a action against the manufacturers of defective cars, SUVs and/or their parts. Consumers have a reasonable expectation that the vehicles they drive will keep them reasonably safe from severe injuries in the event of a rollover accident. In many cases, for example, vehicles which were built with defective roofs have resulted in catastrophic injuries which could have been prevented with safer designs.
Causes of Component Failures and Injuries in Rollover Accidents
There are many components of a vehicle that can fail to perform adequately in rollover accidents, leading to injuries or increasing the severity of injuries. Some of these include roof crush, faulty door locks, restraining systems such as seat belts and defective airbags, poor interior padding and side windows that are not made of tempered glass. Roof crush is a major cause of serious and catastrophic injuries in vehicle rollover accidents. Roof crush results when the roof collapses because of structural weakness. A strong passenger compartment is the best way to prevent severe injuries to the occupants in a car or SUV. Unfortunately, many popular cars and SUVs have been manufactured with roofs that are structurally deficient and as a consequence they fail to prevent major injuries.
Severe injuries sometimes also occur when the seat belt restraint systems do not perform properly. Many restraint systems perform poorly in rollover accidents due to design flaws. In SUV and other vehicle rollover accidents where there have been deaths, vehicle occupants who were restrained with seatbelts were ejected from passenger cars 5% of the time and ejected from SUVs 9% of the time. Sadly, 11% of those who used restraints in passenger cars but were still ejected during the vehicle rollover were killed and five times that many suffered severe life altering injuries. The numbers are even higher for SUV rollovers. In passenger car rollovers, children under the age of four who were restrained in a child safety seat were fatally injured or severely incapacitated 7% of the time and 8% of the time in SUV rollovers.
The types of injuries that are common in vehicle rollovers are life-altering. Victims of these accidents may never be able to work, care for family, or enjoy recreational activities. Those who survive SUV and other vehicle rollover accidents frequently face a lifetime of disability, loss of earning capacity and expensive medical care, which often are not adequately covered by insurance. Seeking compensation for the negligent conduct of responsible parties is very frequently the only way for these victims to pay their medical bills and life-care expenses.
The Reeves Law Group has successfully represented thousands of accident victims and has obtained exceptional results in all types of serious and catastrophic injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured in a rollover accident, we may be able to help you receive compensation for your losses. Call us or email us for a free consultation.