Rollover accidents are often more legally complicated than other types of motor vehicle accidents. This is partly because they tend to be severe: Just 2 percent of the nearly 9.1 million vehicle crashes in 2010 were rollover accidents. Yet they accounted for nearly 35 percent of all deaths from vehicle crashes. Rollover accidents are also sometimes caused by manufacturing defects in the vehicle or tires and therefore may prompt a product liability lawsuit.
Here’s what you need to consider if you have been involved in a rollover.
Causes of rollover crashes
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 95 percent of rollover accidents involving one vehicle are caused by “tripping.” This occurs when a vehicle strikes a curb or guardrail and flips over. It can also happen when a vehicle slides off the roadway into soft soil and the driver attempts to turn back onto the road too quickly.
• More rare are untripped rollovers, which can occur during high-speed collision avoidance maneuvers, especially on slick roads.
• Vehicles with high centers of gravity – such as SUVs, minivans and full-sized vans – are more prone to rollover crashes.
• Tire defects or blowouts also commonly contribute to rollovers.
• Hazardous conditions due to weather, construction, or a poorly maintained road are also often involved.
A rollover accident can become catastrophic if someone is ejected from the vehicle or if the roof collapses. The federal government has mandated improvements in electronic stability control systems, which may reduce the risk of getting into a rollover, as well as improvements in roll cage standards, which may help prevent severe head injuries. But not all vehicles have these upgrades.
Liability in rollover accidents
If you have been involved in a rollover accident, your injuries may be severe. This means your medical bills will be extremely high. The physical therapy necessary to recover may last months or years. And you may lose wages as a result of your accident. You may be able to file a lawsuit to recover these damages.
Here are some instances for which it may be appropriate to sue:
• The road was poorly maintained, causing potholes, sinkholes, or other hazards.
• Construction was inadequately marked or left the road in poor condition.
• A tire was defective.
• You were not adequately warned about vehicle or tire defects.
• The vehicle was not equipped with adequate roll bars or roll cages to keep the roof stable during a rollover, causing your injuries to be worse than they might have been.
• The side or front air bags failed to deploy because of a manufacturing defect, causing you to suffer more severe injuries.
• Another driver caused the accident due to negligence. The driver may have been texting, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or recklessly speeding and swerving.
Filing a lawsuit after a rollover
In the case of poor road conditions, you may sue the city, state or contractor in charge. (Note that if you are suing a public entity over road conditions, you may have a very short window in which to file the case.)
In a product liability case, you would likely sue the manufacturer. These cases can be complex. Large manufacturers and product distributors can typically afford strong legal representation. It is wise in product liability cases to consult with an expert attorney. Your lawyer will collaborate with expert witnesses to determine the nature of the product defects and the reasons for product recalls.
If another driver was at fault, you would file a lawsuit against the other driver. You may also sue some combination of the above, depending on the circumstances of the crash. For example, if a distracted driver caused you to swerve off the road, where you encountered poor road conditions and the vehicle flipped due to poor design, you may need to seek compensation from multiple people and entities.
What to do after a rollover
A rollover crash is often so severe you may not be able to take some of the recommended steps following an accident.
• Definitely seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you don’t immediately feel you need it. Pain can be masked by shock and adrenaline. If you wait until injuries surface later on, these injuries probably won’t be accounted for in your claim.
• Call the police and give them your account of what happened. Be completely honest and state only the facts.
• Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before discussing the case with the other driver’s insurance company. All initial consultations with the Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team are complimentary, and the firm only gets paid if you get paid.
To help prevent rollover accidents in the future, it’s smart to consult the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s vehicle safety ratings website. It’s designed to help consumers make informed decisions when purchasing a vehicle, and it offers rollover risk ratings.