A quarter of all new vehicle sales in the U.S. each year are sport utility vehicles or SUVs, making them the most popular type of motor vehicle in America today. Appreciated for their sporty appearance and spacious interiors, SUVs are deceptively marketed as being safe, sturdy, and rugged. This image lulls consumers into a false sense of security that an SUV will protect them and their loved ones in the event of an accident.
In reality, SUVs have historically had the highest rollover accident involvement rate of any vehicle type. Rollover accidents are among the most dangerous and deadly type of motor vehicle accident, second only to head on collisions according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). An SUV’s size, shape, and weight distribution make them particularly susceptible to rollovers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 58,000 people are injured in SUV rollover accidents each year, with 4,500 of those resulting in a fatality. Rollover SUV accidents occur when a vehicle turns onto its side or roof, causing the roof to collapse into the cabin and crush drivers and passengers. Such trauma frequently causes grave head and neck injuries, as well as puncture wounds from broken metal and glass.
If you have sustained serious physical injuries as a result of an accident involving a sport utility vehicle, the personal injury attorneys at Berry Law can help you recover the compensation owed to you due to a vehicle manufacturer’s design flaws.
What Makes SUVs Susceptible to Rollover Accidents?
In the United States, passenger cars and other vehicles that weigh less than 6,000 pounds are required by federal law to have roofs that can withstand one and a half times their weight. This is not the case with SUVs.
As a result, a rollover accident that occurs in an SUV increases the likelihood of serious injuries by more than 36 percent. While SUV accidents only account for approximately three percent of serious motor vehicle crashes, they are involved in 30 percent of accidents in which a person is killed while riding in a passenger vehicle.
Most SUVs also lack another crucial safety feature called a roll bar. Typically found in automobile suspension systems to help reduce the body roll of a vehicle during fast cornering or on rough, bumpy roads, the lack of a roll bar in SUVs is a manufacturing defect.
Due to the fact that roll bars are costly to install, and since there is no federal requirement to include them in SUVs, many manufacturers still don’t bother to factor them in to SUV design models. This oversight is shocking, considering that 50 percent of all single-vehicle accident fatalities are the result of a rollover crash, with 63 percent of those involving an SUV.
Other SUV manufacturer design flaws that increase the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities include seatbelts that unlatch and fail to protect drivers and passengers during a crash, airbags that don’t deploy, and doors that open and eject a vehicle’s occupants during a rollover accident.
What Causes Vehicle Instability in an SUV?
SUVs have an unreasonably high tendency to roll over, even when driven under average driving conditions. Seventy thousand SUV rollover accidents occur each year, with certain models up to sixteen times more likely than the typical family car to kill the occupants of another vehicle as well.
This is due mainly to the SUVs high center of gravity, with many SUVs having particularly top-heavy designs that make them more difficult to steer, control, and handle during sudden braking. An SUV’s design allows gravity to pull the vehicle to one side or another, so that even a small change in direction or speed can lead to a rollover accident.
This is especially concerning since many defensive driving maneuvers which are intended to prevent collisions can actually lead to an SUV rolling over. Other causes for SUV rollover accidents can include hitting a guardrail or curb or driving on loose gravel or exceptionally uneven terrain. What might be a perfectly harmless maneuver in a smaller vehicle can be catastrophic in an SUV due to design flaws that cause thousands of preventable deaths each year.
Despite the alarming statistics, SUV manufacturers continue to build and market these vehicles without fixing the design issues
What Happens in an SUV Rollover Accident?
When an SUV rolls over, occupants of the vehicle may be violently thrown around inside in such a way that results in serious head and neck injuries, with the potential for being thrown from the vehicle altogether, increasing the risk of fatalities.
Rollover SUV accidents happen for a variety of reasons including:
Overcorrection of the Vehicle
While trying to avoid a collision with another car or facing some other hazard in the roadway that must suddenly be avoided, an SUV driver may jerk the steering wheel with too much force, sending the SUV sideways and causing it to flip over.
When one side of an SUV drives up a ramp or other high object such as a hill that positions one half of the vehicle above the other, a rollover accident can occur.
Lateral Force Rollover
An SUV traveling at a high rate of speed may take a curve too fast, forcing the vehicle into a roll due to its high center of gravity.
Sideways Skid Rollover
In the event that an SUV’s rear wheels lose traction and spin, such as on ice or snow, the rear of the vehicle may pull the rest of the SUV with it onto its side.
Uneven Driving Surfaces
An SUV that drives off-road or leaves a paved roadway can more easily roll when it hits an even surface such as a dirt road with ruts or gravel. Drivers may unintentionally find themselves off of the highway due to fatigued driving, distracted driving, or being forced to swerve to avoid a hazard, putting them at risk for tipping over.
Tire tread defects that lead to a tire blowout or other tire issues can cause a lack of stability control in an SUV. Similarly, faulty brakes or a poorly designed suspension system can also sometimes be to blame.
Added Top Weight
SUVs that are additionally loaded with full luggage racks or other cargo are even more at risk for a rollover crash since overloading an already-top-heavy SUV increases its instability further.
Other causes of SUV rollover wrecks include reckless or aggressive driving or speeding, as well as a basic lack of understanding of SUV construction and their high centers of gravity.
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I Already Have an SUV. How Can I Avoid a Rollover Accident?
An SUV rolling over typically results in very serious injuries like traumatic brain injury and back, neck and spinal cord injuries that can cause full or partial paralysis. Broken or fractured bones, lacerations, bruises and scrapes are also common following an SUV rollover accident.
You can avoid causing a rollover accident by driving carefully and avoiding excessive speeding. Refrain from overloading your SUV and ensure that you and any passengers regularly use seatbelts.
Maintaining your SUV’s tires is also important rollover prevention, along with the avoidance of sudden or sharp steering changes while you’re driving.
Who is Liable for Damages in an SUV Rollover Accident?
Automobile manufacturers have been held liable in the past for defective SUVs that led to serious injuries or death. A product liability claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit that holds the vehicle manufacturer responsible for damages from an SUV rollover accident.
Only an Omaha car accident attorney can help you to determine whether liability rests with your vehicle’s manufacturer, a negligent driver, or a little of both. This determination is typically based on some combination of the following:
- Defects present in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
- Weather or road conditions at the time of the accident.
- Driver error.
- The cause of the vehicle tipping that led to the rollover accident.
- The nature of the injuries sustained by drivers or passengers, and whether or not they were a direct result of the vehicle rolling.
SUV manufacturers may be found liable in accidents where a rollover occurred due to the negligent design or manufacturing of the vehicle. In other cases, a negligent mechanic or tire specialist could be held at least partially responsible if he or she is found to have performed negligent work on a vehicle or sold defective tires, if that negligence is determined to have directly caused the accident.
In addition to any entity involved in the designing, manufacturing or maintenance of your SUV, another driver who hit you may be determined to be the liable party in a lawsuit. A thorough investigation should be conducted to determine why the accident occurred, who was at fault, and how you can recover the damages rightfully owed to you.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured in a Rollover SUV Accident?
Investigating an SUV rollover can be complicated and time consuming and often requires the expertise of witnesses who understand vehicle design and accident reconstruction. An experienced Omaha personal injury attorney can help lead the investigation into your accident claim and will know when to involve experts to assist in proving the case.
Hire a car accident lawyer to begin investigating your case today. Compensation for an SUV accident can include reimbursement for medical costs, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering and more. Having legal representation is critical because insurance companies will often encourage victims or their families to file a claim and settle right away, leaving them without the ability to receive further compensation in the future for injuries that may not present themselves immediately.
How Long Do I Have to File a Suit for My SUV Rollover Accident?
While it’s important to wait to file a personal injury suit until after you have calculated all of your losses, you don’t want to wait so long that you miss meeting the statute of limitations. Nebraska Revised Statute 25-207 gives accident victims and their families up to four years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim and two years from the date of the accident to file a wrongful death suit.
You must file a claim within the statute of limitations to receive any compensation. Even if you are in the process of negotiating the terms of a settlement with an insurance company, you should still file your case in court within the statute of limitations so that you don’t risk walking away with less than what you deserve or anything at all.
It isn’t necessary to actually settle your case within the time frame of the statute of limitations; you are only required to file your case prior to the deadline. This provides you and the insurance company additional time to negotiate the terms of your settlement or for your attorney to take increasingly aggressive legal action to force the insurance company to pay what a jury would deem fair and just compensation in court.
If you attempt to file a claim outside of the statute of limitations, a defense attorney will motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the suit was filed outside of the parameters set by the state of Nebraska, and a judge will have no choice but to throw it out.
To get started on the process of resolving your claim, reach out to our firm today.