Roof crush accidents occur when a vehicle rolls over as a result of an accident and the roof of the vehicle does not stay intact. Instead, the roof crushes due to its inability to sustain the impact of the accident. When the roof of a vehicle crushes during an accident, it can cause the passenger to be crushed, or in some instances, cause the passenger to be ejected from the vehicle. In many cases, roof crush accidents result in catastrophic injuries and sometimes death.
Vehicle manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that crashworthy roofs are installed in the vehicles they manufacture, and should be held accountable for any injuries or deaths caused by a vehicle roof defect. Statistics show that almost 250,000 deaths are caused each year in the United States because of rollover accidents that involve the roof of the vehicle crushing. Had the roofs of these vehicles been correctly installed and certified as crashworthy, the passenger deaths due to rollover accidents would be significantly less.
Safety Spotlight: Crushed Roofs and Vehicle Rollovers
Each year, there are thousands of rollover accidents that result in serious injury or death. Many involve SUVs, passenger vans and trucks—with SUVs being 75% more likely to be involved in rollover accidents than standard vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures. Sadly, many of these incidents could have been prevented had manufacturers paid greater attention to proper design protocols and safety standards.
Your vehicle’s roof is built for vehicle stability and aerodynamics, as well as to protect you from becoming seriously injured in the event of a rollover or related accident. In fact, your life depends on having adequate “survival space” around your body, to ensure that there is enough room for rescue teams to be able to reach and remove you from the crushed vehicle.
It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to design a product that helps save lives—and yet, many times, inadequate or faulty design can in fact be the reason why serious injuries occur in rollover accidents.
Defects Related to Rollover Accidents
Even though many people attribute a rollover accident to driver error, there can also be fault on the manufacturer’s side in the form of:
- “Survival space” failure: Serious injuries or even death can occur from structural design failures in side rails, headers or support pillars intended to protect drivers and passengers. If your roof has been crushed either downward or inward during a rollover incident, there is a strong likelihood that there is a design flaw in the roof’s pillars which includes holes intended to lighten the weight of your vehicle. In this design flaw, the strength of a closed-pillar design is sacrificed—putting you and your passengers at increased risk of injury.
- Stability or handling defects: Some vehicles have a known history of rollover issues due to design or production defects that lead to a tendency for that vehicle to lose stability. Stability issues can result from design flaws such as a poorly designed suspension system, especially in SUVs or vehicles with a higher center of gravity. Electronic stability control systems and lift kit flaws can also cause instability.
- Outdated safety standards: While many manufacturers know that certain roof designs are more dangerous than others, they continue to rely on outdated federal safety standards as a way of keeping design and production costs down. For example, Ford Motor Company is one manufacturer who misled U.S. regulators about roof safety on its Explorer model back in 2005—and settled millions of dollars in class-action lawsuits spanning four states in November 2007.
- Tire defects: These defects may include tire blowouts, failures, or manufacturing defects in the tires themselves—and could be a result of sub-standard design or manufacturing processes, or tire aging or wear.
According to Consumer Reports: “Sideways forces that develop when a vehicle rounds a curve shifts the center of gravity to one side, which can have a dramatic effect on the vehicle’s balance. The lateral forces increase with speed and also with rapid changes of direction—for example, when a driver makes too sharp a turn one way and then overcorrects the other way. Those transitions can set up a pendulum effect, with larger and larger swings and an eventual loss of control.” [Source: “Car Rollover 101,” ConsumerReports.org, April 2014]
Often in cases where roof crush occurred during a rollover incident, we need to take a closer look to determine whether other manufacturer defects may have contributed to the accident. A good review of potential defect claims is critical. Such a list may contain (but is certainly not limited to) defects or issues with airbags, child safety seats, fuel systems, windshield glass, seatbelts, tire failures or tread separation, inadequate warning statements and general vehicle stability claims.
At Pope McGlamry, we want you and your family to stay as safe as possible at all times when you’re on the road. In the event you are involved in a rollover accident, or are involved in a wreck with a crushed roof, contact us. Because the flaws that can lead to rollovers are often internal rather than external, often times a normal inspection may not uncover them.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a roof crush accident, please contact the experienced attorneys at Pope McGlamry. You may complete a free online case evaluation or call us directly to discuss the specifics of your case.