Every automobile accident has the potential to seriously injure, but rollover accidents are particularly dangerous, often causing serious injury or death. According to data gathered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS), the number of automobile accidents resulting in death involving SUVs has been rising, while the number of accidents resulting in death involving cars has been steeply declining. This is at least partially, if not largely due to the proclivity of SUVs to roll over, due to their higher center of gravity. As the SUV gained popularity in the late 1990s and 2000s, the number of SUV related fatal accidents increased at the highest rate. While the trend has leveled off slightly due to technological and manufacturing changes, SUVs are still more likely to roll over than an average car. According to a Consumer Reports study, rollover accidents only account for about 3% of all accidents but still are responsible for approximately 30% of car accident fatalities, showing a far higher risk of death in rollover accidents than other accidents. Thus, even with safety enhancements, SUVs do pose a significant risk based on this tendency to roll over.
How Do Rollover Accidents Happen?
A rollover accident can be classified in one of two categories: single vehicle rollover accidents and multiple vehicle rollover accidents. The science, laid out in the Consumer Reports article above, basically shows that the higher the vehicle’s center of gravity, the more likely it is to roll over. Additional factors that can contribute to the likelihood of a rollover accident are speed and sharp turns, which create a lateral rotational force. Also, excessive tire grip can contribute to this lateral force and make a rollover accident a higher possibility.
Contrary to popular belief, single-vehicle rollover accidents are not singularly caused by a driver’s steering maneuver, but rather are most frequently caused by what is called a “trip.” This occurs when a vehicle swerves and hits a pothole, curb, or the metal rim of the tire. Some estimates place “tripping” as responsible for 95% of single-vehicle rollover accidents. Multi-vehicle rollover accidents can be caused by any number of factors, as additional forces in various directions are applied by the colliding vehicles. As such, the cause of a multi-vehicle rollover accident is harder to pinpoint, but a higher center of gravity can still increase the likelihood of one occurring.
The concept of center of gravity is simply explained. In a car, the weight of the passengers is distributed at or slightly above the axel of the tires. In an SUV the axels are higher from the ground than a car for rough terrain clearance and the passengers sit up higher than the axels. With more weight at a higher elevation above the ground, it takes less force to tip any object. A center of gravity in an SUV is much higher than in a car.
Preventing Rollover Accidents
Consumer reports list several factors that can help to reduce the likelihood of a rollover accident and further reducing the likelihood that a rollover accident will result in a fatality. These include wearing your seatbelt, checking your tires for tread and pressure, watching the stability of your load, reducing speed, and being extra careful on country roads. Also, the newer the vehicle, the more likely that it will be equipped with technology that at least partially mitigates the risk of a rollover, or protects the occupants from suffering catastrophic injury if a rollover does in fact occur. However, not every accident is preventable and you can operate your vehicle with the utmost care and still be involved in a serious accident, particularly when multiple cars are involved. Obviously, the most important factor is wearing a seatbelt. In a rollover type accident occupants are highly likely to be ejected from the vehicle if not fully seatbelted. The passengers get ejected from windows broken on impact. Once ejected, the human body cannot withstand the impact with the pavement. If seatbelted, the occupants are much more likely to be contained within the vehicle. While they may be injured, the injury is likely to be much less severe. Remember, SUVs are not to be driven like sports cars.
Were You Involved in a Rollover Accident?
The attorneys at Keches Law Group are very experienced at dealing with all kinds of automobile accident cases, including rollover accidents and serious or fatal accidents. It is critical in rollover accidents that the injured party or their family contact us immediately. The preservation of evidence, including the totaled vehicle, is critical. It is also critical that an accident re-constructionist hired by Keches Law Group see the accident location quickly. Rollover accidents create definitive marks in the roadway. These can be skid marks and gouges. These markings need to be documented as soon as possible to prevent the argument that they are not related to this specific accident.
We would be happy to sit down with you to discuss the particulars of your case. With rollover accidents, particularly multi-vehicle accidents, there are two possible avenues of potential recovery. First is a claim against another driver for negligence. Second is a claim against the manufacturer based on a products liability theory. These are not mutually exclusive remedies and we are experienced in pursuing both claims. Our attorneys pride themselves on both being knowledgeable and firm in our representation while also being personable and relatable to our clients, as often times our clients are coming to us following a tragedy. Throughout the process, whether it is filing a claim with your insurance company or another driver’s or filing a lawsuit against the insurance company or the automobile manufacturer, we will maintain open channels of communication, so that we can provide the best representation possible.