Vehicle rollover accidents are often violent and extremely destructive. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while they account for only 3 percent of all crashes, rollovers cause about 30 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths, and often leave victims with devastating injuries.
If you have been injured in a vehicle rollover due to another driver’s negligence, a defective roadway, or an auto defect, the experienced vehicle rollover attorneys at TorkLaw can help you better understand your legal rights and options.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured
If you have been involved in a rollover accident, the first thing to do is determine whether you or others are injured. If you are unable to move or are trapped in the vehicle, remain where you are until help arrives. If emergency personnel offer treatment at the scene, accept it. It is best to go to an emergency room right away, even if you think you don’t need to. After a traumatic event, shock and adrenaline can temporarily mask pain, so you should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
Be sure to file a police report. Give them your account of what occurred, to the best of your recollection. If you cannot remember something, tell the officer you can’t remember or don’t know. Don’t guess or provide inaccurate information.
It is important to collect evidence from the scene, if you are physically able. Otherwise, ask a family member or friend. Collect crucial information such as insurance information from other parties involved, photos and videos from the scene, contact information for eyewitnesses, physical evidence, etc.
Preserve your vehicle in its current condition — it might be the most important piece of evidence in your crash. The crashworthiness of the vehicle, roof strength and any vehicle stability issues due to design flaws may have been factors in the rollover. Don’t repair your vehicle until an accident reconstruction expert has examined it.
Contact an experienced rollover accident lawyer to analyze all aspects of the incident, and protect your rights every step of the way. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to help preserve critical evidence and guide you through the claim process so you can receive maximum compensation.
What Causes Rollover Accidents?
Most rollovers occur when a driver loses control of a vehicle and it slides sideways. When this happens, the vehicle may “trip” on an object such as a curb, or a guardrail and roll over. Rollovers also happen when a driver turns a vehicle too aggressively, or at too high a speed. Some rollovers are caused by forces in a multi-vehicle crash, such as a chain reaction collision or following impact with a much larger object, such as a train. However, roughly 75 percent of rollover fatalities occur in single-vehicle crashes, and more than 50 percent of vehicle occupants killed in single-vehicle crashes are involved in rollovers.
There are many situations that may cause or exacerbate these events:
- Driving under the influence: Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a factor in at least half of all rollover collisions.
- Tire defects: A defective or worn-out tire may cause a rollover due to tire tread separation. Blown tires or tread separation can happen very quickly when the vehicle is in motion, and cause a driver to lose control.Tread or belt separation occurs most often with older tires. When tires exceed their shelf life (typically six years), the rubber dries out, leading to cracks. It is important to check your treads frequently, and replace your tires as soon as they show such wear. Don’t buy used tires that are more than four years old. However, it is not just old tires that fail — defectively manufactured tires may blow out or separate.
- Excessive speed: High speed or unsafe speed is one of the main causes of rollover crashes. The faster a vehicle is traveling at the time of a crash, the more likely it is that the vehicle will roll over on impact with another car or object, such as a post or tree. It is important to stay within the speed limit and drive at a speed that is appropriate for the traffic, roadway, and weather conditions.
- Poor vehicle design: When a vehicle is designed with a high center of gravity, greater ground clearance and narrower track width, it has a higher propensity to roll over. When there is more cargo in the vehicle, this further increases its center of gravity, heightening the risk of a rollover. This is primarily why many SUV and pick-up truck models are more prone to rollovers than smaller passenger vehicles. In 2016, 47 percent of SUV occupant deaths were caused by vehicle rollover accidents, and 43 percent of fatalities involved pickup trucks. Only 22 percent of deaths in cars were in rollovers.
Injuries Suffered in Vehicle Rollovers
Occupants of vehicles involved in rollover crashes are likely to suffer catastrophic or even fatal injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries suffered in rollover crashes.
- Traumatic brain injuries: In a rollover crash, a brain injury may occur when the occupant strikes his or her head inside the vehicle or on the pavement when ejected from the vehicle. Brain injuries are often catastrophic because they leave individuals with lifelong disabilities. Brain injury victims often require lengthy rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy.
- Spinal cord trauma: Spinal cord injuries are extremely common in rollover collisions that trap occupants in the vehicle. When the roof of the vehicle caves in, occupants’ spines are crushed. This could lead to disabling injuries, including paralysis. There is often no cure for catastrophic spinal injuries. Victims lose their ability to continue working and may require round-the-clock care. The costs of these types of injuries could add up to millions of dollars during a person’s lifetime.
- Broken bones: While broken bone injuries are not viewed as catastrophic, they could leave victims with chronic pain. Broken bone injuries often require lengthy rehabilitative care and physical therapy. It could take several months before healing is complete and victims regain strength, function, and mobility.
- Internal injuries: Car accidents often cause trauma to vital organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys. Internal bleeding could become fatal if not treated right away. These are also injuries that may not be immediately apparent, so it is critical to receive medical attention right away.
- Loss of limbs: Given the high velocity of a rollover crash, lacerations are a common occurrence and could lead to limb amputations, which could prove life-changing for victims and their families.
Rollover Accident Investigations
In any car accident, especially a rollover accident, investigating the cause is critical. For example, in many single-vehicle rollovers that result in catastrophic injuries or deaths, vehicle occupants are partially or fully ejected. Often, police or insurance company investigators assume the person was not wearing a seat belt. Statistics show that, 33 percent of the time, the victim was ejected despite wearing a seat belt.
Liability in such cases depends on what caused the accident and the devastating injuries. For example, if the seat belt failed, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the automaker and the manufacturer of the seat belt restraint system. When airbags don’t deploy properly, victims may suffer blunt force trauma injuries. These are reasons the vehicle should be preserved for a detailed examination.
In cases where reckless or impaired driving may have caused the crash, the other driver can be held liable. In cases where a dangerous or defective roadway caused the accident, the governmental agency responsible for maintaining the roadway can also be held accountable. In such cases, a claim must be filed within six months of the incident.
Damages in Rollover Accidents
The value of your rollover accident case will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries and damages. Victims of rollover accidents may be able to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income and benefits
- Cost of rehabilitative treatment
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent injuries and disabilities
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
The experienced vehicle rollover attorneys at TorkLaw have significant experience investigating rollover accident cases and helping injured victims secure maximum compensation. Please call us at 888.845.9696 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.