Who is Liable for my Rollover Accident?
Over the last decade, the number of rollover accidents has gone up steadily across the nation, a fact that is largely attributed to the increased number of pickup trucks, SUVs, and passenger vans on the road. Rollover accidents are extremely dangerous and often fatal, so if you or a loved one were involved in this type of crash, it is important to contact an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer who will aggressively represent your interests.
Common Rollover Causes and Injuries
SUVs are especially prone to rolling in accidents, which is in large part due to the fact that top heavy vehicles generally do not handle rapid maneuvers very well. Poor suspension, tire tread failure, tread separation, and weak brakes also contribute to these types of crashes. In fact, one of the most common causes of SUV rollovers is tire blowouts, which are more likely to cause top heavy cars with a high center of gravity to roll than standard passenger vehicles. Tripping also causes a significant amount of rollover accidents. Tripping occurs when one of the tires on a vehicle strikes a curb, bump, or other object, which interrupts the car’s momentum, causing it to lurch sideways or forward. Hazardous roadways can also contribute to tripping and subsequent rollovers. Dangerous conditions include:
- A lack of warning signs;
- Poor road maintenance;
- Uneven pavement;
- Slick conditions;
- Unsafe shoulders; and
- Poor planning, including sharp curves.
Unlike other types of accidents, rollovers almost always result in severe damage to a car’s structure. This makes it more likely that a driver or passenger will be injured by broken glass or metal that has detached from the car. Additionally, crushed roofs also have a tendency to trap occupants in the car where they are forced to wait for emergency responders. Certain types of injuries are more common in rollover accidents, including:
- Head and neck injuries;
- Severe lacerations;
- Organ damage and internal bleeding; and
Many of these injuries can leave victims permanently disabled or require expensive and painful treatments. Fortunately, if a plaintiff can establish that another party was negligent, he or she may be able to recover damages for those costs.
Most rollover accidents only involve one vehicle. However, this does not mean that victims cannot collect compensation. This is because plaintiffs can hold manufacturers liable for injuries caused as a result of design defects, negligent manufacturing processes, inadequate safety testing, and the use of improper parts. Often, more than one party can be held liable for their negligence. For example, after hundreds of accidents occurred nationwide it was discovered that Ford Explorers had a defective design that made them prone to rolling. However, the Firestone tires used by the company on its vehicles also had flawed designs, which increased the probability of tread belt separations and blowouts at high speeds. This in turn significantly increased the likelihood of a rollover. Finally, Ford’s recommendation of using low tire pressure to keep the ride smooth further increased the danger of a possible rollover. Because all of these companies contributed to the accidents, they could all be held liable for their negligence.
Even when rollovers are not attributed to a tire design problem, the vehicle’s manufacturers can still be held responsible if the roof of a vehicle crushed inward during the crash. This is because crushed roofs are often a sign that a manufacturer put holes in the pillars used to support the roof in order to lighten the weight of the vehicle, which has the effect of weakening their strength. Alternatively, a vehicle’s manufacturer or seller may not have equipped the car with proper safety features, such as a rollover bar, which can open those entities up to liability for their negligence.
Because poor road maintenance or design can contribute to or cause rollover accidents, victims may be able to hold either the city or the state responsible. This can be a difficult process as bringing a claim against the government requires adherence to strict procedural guidelines. For instance, rollover victims are usually required to bring a claim against the government within six months of the accident and must file a notice of claim before bringing the case to court.
Although defective manufacturing leaves many drivers unable to prevent rollovers, there are some steps that people can take to lower their chances of injury. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers can minimize their risk by:
- Avoiding panic steering;
- Maintaining proper tire pressure at all times;
- Ensuring that heavy loads are distributed correctly so as not to throw a car off balance;
- Being familiar with the proper maneuvers of reducing speed in icy conditions;
- Using caution while driving on rural roads, which often do not have a shoulder or barrier to prevent rollovers;
- Wearing a seatbelt;
- Ensuring that a vehicle is equipped with automatic braking or anti-lock brakes;
- Avoiding excessive speeds; and
- Focusing on the road while driving.
While taking these measures doesn’t guarantee that a driver will not be involved in a rollover accident, they can help increase a person’s odds of avoiding an accident or lessening the severity of their injuries.
Investigating a Rollover
One of the most important tools in investigating a rollover crash is retaining the services of a reconstruction specialist. These individuals are trained specifically to reconstruct accidents and can be invaluable in determining fault. By measuring skid marks, gouges, and points of impact, specialists can help figure out the speeds at which a car was traveling and so recreate the course of events leading up to and during the crash. Engineers can also be pivotal in determining whether a vehicle’s design was flawed.
How an Experienced Atlanta Car Crash Attorney Can Help
If you live in or near Atlanta and were recently involved in a rollover crash, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by completing one of our contact forms and we will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer.