SUV Rollover Accidents: Liability for Defective Design?

Photo of truck accidentSport utility vehicles have a reputation for being generally safer than standard passenger cars. But don’t be fooled – SUVs are certainly better at protecting passengers from car accidents, but carry some hidden dangers of their own.

On New Year’s Day, a driver on the Garden State Parkway was seriously injured when his SUV rolled over unexpectedly. The vehicle then caught fire, and the driver was rushed to nearby Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Was it a defect in the vehicle that caused the rollover? The investigation is ongoing, but even if there was nothing wrong with the car, SUVs do have a greater risk of rolling due to the high center-of-gravity, narrower track width and some SUV designs.

Rollover Accident Stats

In the United States, there are approximately 11,000 fatal rollover accidents per year. Only around 2 percent of motor vehicle accidents involve rollovers. However, a stunning 35 percent of all deaths in car crashes are caused by rollovers.

Unfortunately, many SUVs on the road today do not come equipped with roll bars. This means that in a rollover, the roof is likely to collapse inward, leading to serious harm. With roof crushes, safety measures meant to protect the victim from injury are often completely ineffective. Seat belts and airbags, for example, serve no purpose in the event of a roof crush. Victims lucky enough to survive a roof crush might never be the same again. Roof crushing can lead to catastrophic injury, like spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and broken bones.

Rollovers can happen in one of two ways: tripped or untripped. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 95 percent of single-vehicle rollovers are tripped. Tripping happens when a vehicle leaves the roadway sideways, either digging the tires into something soft like soil or gravel, or striking a solid object like a curve or a guardrail.

Untripped rollovers are much rarer. They happen usually as a result of collision avoidance maneuvers undertaken by a driver in a top-heavy car.

When a person is injured or killed due to a vehicle rollover, it is important to investigate all of the circumstances that led to an accident in order to determine the victim’s eligibility for damages. If defective design of a vehicle’s components contributed to a rollover, the victim may be able to seek recovery from the vehicle manufacturer.

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