Auto Crashworthiness - Consumer Justice Foundation

Auto Crashworthiness

Written by Andrew Sarski on March 8, 2011
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What is Automobile Crashworthiness?

The crashworthiness of a vehicle is measured by how well the automobile performs during a collision, namely how well the vehicle maintains its intended design while simultaneously protecting the occupants inside the vehicle. When determining the crashworthiness of an automobile, both the effectiveness of the vehicle structure and of the safety components within the vehicle are taken into consideration.

Significant Advances in Vehicle Crashworthiness

In the past, although automobiles typically suffered very little damage in collisions because of their stiff frames, the occupants of these vehicles often experienced severe injuries because of a lack of interior safety devices. Fortunately, modern advances in automobile safety mechanisms have greatly reduced the severity of injuries sustained during motor vehicle accidents. Among these safety devices are:

  • Seat belts
  • Airbags
  • Headrests
  • Crumple zones
  • Side impact zones

Modern safety mechanisms have significantly reduced the number of major injuries sustained during motor vehicle accidents. These safety mechanisms are intended to reduce the number and severity of injuries by preventing occupants from being thrown forward during a frontal collision, preventing whiplash during a rear collision, and cushioning the blow of occupants against the interior structures of the car. Unfortunately, although these devices are designed and installed to protect the occupants of the vehicle, failure of one or more of them to perform properly may result in catastrophic injury and death.

Injuries Caused by Faulty Vehicular Devices

Too often, automobile occupants are seriously injured or even ejected from the vehicle during a collision, an issue which can be traced back to defective products like faulty seat belts, airbags, seats, tires, latch mechanisms, roof strength, and window design. For example, an airbag may deploy for no reason, causing major injuries and burns to the face and body, or an airbag may fail to deploy during a serious accident, potentially resulting in devastating injuries and death. In other cases, the integrity of an automobile’s structure and stability may be defective, causing an increased risk of being involved in a deadly rollover.

What is a Rollover Accident?

Roof strength is essential to the safety of occupants during a rollover accident, and with the increasing popularity of large trucks and sport utility vehicles, the likelihood of vehicles to roll over has also significantly increased. If a vehicle’s roof crushes in during a collision, the occupants have an higher chance of suffering severe injuries, including spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and death. Furthermore, depending upon how the roof compresses, even an occupant who is properly seat belted may be partially ejected from the vehicle during the rollover, leaving the head, arms or shoulders vulnerable to excessive and life-threatening damage. Despite the fact that the dangers of rollovers have been evident for years, vehicle manufacturers have failed to take the appropriate steps to increase the stability of their vehicles in order to prevent serious injury and death during rollovers.

Causes of Rollovers

Rollovers can be caused by a number of factors, including tire blowouts, faulty equipment design, driver error, weather, or collision with another vehicle or object. Rollovers are typically more dangerous than other types of accidents, resulting in more head injuries and vehicle ejections. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than half of all fatalities occurring during single-vehicle accidents are the result of rollovers. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that 596 deaths and 807 major injuries are caused by roof crushes each year.

Injuries Sustained During Rollover Accidents

Although partial occupant ejection is more common in rollover accidents than in non-rollover accidents, the ejection itself is not the cause of injury or death. The ejection simply puts the occupant at an increased risk of suffering serious injury caused by impact with the ground. If the victim survives the rollover accident, he may sustain major injuries like:

  • Fractures
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Quadriplegia
  • Paraplegia
  • Spinal injuries

Because of the potential for rollover accidents to cause significant injury and death, federal law requires vehicles weighing under 6,000 pounds to have a certain roof strength. Unfortunately, this regulation does not apply to many trucks and sport utility vehicles, which are typically heavier and also more likely to be involved in a rollover accident.

Rollover and Auto Crashworthiness Legal Help

Trucks and sport utility vehicles in particular are known by manufacturers be more prone to rollovers. In fact, statistics show that these types of vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in rollover accidents as cars. Unfortunately, many of these vehicles are designed and constructed with inadequate roofs which cannot sustain rollover accidents without the roof crushing in on the occupants. Even in non-rollover accidents, faulty design of safety mechanisms can cause a number of major and even fatal injuries.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries during a motor vehicle accident or rollover, caused by faulty safety equipment, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your injuries. Contact a defective product attorney as soon as possible to discuss the benefits of filing a defective product lawsuit against the negligent manufacturing company. The goal of a defective product lawsuit is to seek financial compensation for your injuries, the medical expenses resulting from injury treatment, and the pain and suffering sustained by you and your family. If the defective product caused an accident which resulted in a fatality, the victim’s family members may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the vehicle’s manufacturing company. With the help of a defective product lawyer, victims of serious injuries or death caused by defective vehicular devices can collect the compensation they deserve.

Posted Under: Auto Products
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