Dangers of Roof-crush in Rollover Highway Accidents

As experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, are keenly aware of the physical and emotional toll that a severe automobile, commercial truck or motorcycle wreck can take on the victims of these many times senseless and tragic roadway accidents. As motorists ourselves, we are deeply concerned about the safety of our friends and loved ones, as well as the driving public in general. Sadly, we also understand that eliminating traffic collisions may be a goal, but likely there will always be accidents and, therefore, people injured by those incidents.

With the millions of vehicle miles driven every day in this country, it isn’t surprising that Maryland motorists see the aftermath of collisions every day in cities like Annapolis, Rockville, Columbia and the District. While many of these encounters involve what are known euphemistically as “fender-benders,” people are hurt in even these simple and low-speed accidents.

Although many car and truck accidents cause just a little damage and result in minor injuries, a fair percentage of road accidents do indeed cause serious bodily injuries and sometimes death. More often than not, auto injuries from passenger car and commercial trucking collisions are the result of one driver’s negligent actions. Whether through carelessness or recklessness, a motorist whose behavior results in another innocent person’s injuries should be held responsible for his actions and for the pain and suffering that he has inflicted on the injured party.

In the legal world, specifically the area of auto injury law, attorneys representing the injured party typically look for fault on the part of another motorist. The theory of fault is usually negligence, which means that the motorist who causes a car or trucking-related accident failed to act in a reasonable manner while operating his motor vehicle. Here in Maryland, our traffic laws specify that every motorist should operate his or her vehicle in a manner that any reasonably prudent person would.

In other words, a driver may be held legally responsible for injuries or fatalities, not to mention property damage, that occur if that individual operated his car in such a way as to needlessly endanger other motorists, vehicle occupants or pedestrians. Aside from the legal responsibility of a motorist to drive safely and prudently, there is the area of products liability where an accident may be caused or made worse by the failure of a motor vehicle to perform as the manufacturer intended.

If a highway accident cannot be avoided, the very least that should be expected is that the vehicle in which the victims are riding should provide sufficient safety so as to protect those individuals from serious injury or death. While there are no guarantees in life, the government has established minimum criteria for vehicle safety, which over the years has saved countless lives. One area that has been a continued concern is the sensitivity of sport utility vehicles, or SUVs) toward rolling over under certain road conditions.

Roadway crashes involving SUVs can, in fact, be very deadly. For law firms like Lebowitz & Mzhen, proving negligence is extremely important in cases where personal injury or wrongful death is involved. Since the average SUV is a relatively large and outwardly solid vehicle, owners and drivers of these kinds of passenger vehicles can have the feeling of invincibility when driving them. However, due to the greater ride height when compared to a typical passenger sedan, SUVs can actually be less stable and therefore more dangerous under certain circumstances than a standard passenger car.

As injury lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen knows that SUV-related roadway accidents, which take place every day across this nation, contribute to the hundreds of thousands of auto-related injuries. Many of these SUV crashes take the form of a rollover event. For the many sport utility vehicle drivers who expect their vehicles to protect them, the results of such rollover-type crashes can be shocking, if not painful and costly.

As stated previously, rollover wrecks involving SUVs can be much more dangerous and potentially deadly than the average accident involving a passenger sedan or economy car. Depending on the circumstances, the violence of such events can severely injure the driver and passengers, resulting in bodily injuries ranging from broken bones and internal hemorrhaging to neck and spinal cord damage, and even traumatic brain injury. Head injuries for the front-row occupants can be caused by a roof-crush event, something that is rather specific to SUVs.

In the realm of automotive engineering, the amount of weight that a motor vehicle’s roof can support -- when the vehicle is lying upside down -- is known a "roof crush resistance." Because a rollover accident often results in a car, truck or SUV flipped over, the ability of any vehicle to have a high roof crush resistance is critical to the survival of the occupants during such a roadway accident. This is in addition to the already violent and highly injurious rolling motion that the passengers encounter during the rollover incident.

When the ceiling of a vehicle is crushed down during this kind of a bad rollover crash, the occupants are more likely to contact the hard surfaces and, hence, receive more serious injuries during the event. Most roof-crush injuries sustained by victims can include the following:

  • Broken neck
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Closed-head trauma
  • Head lacerations
  • Penetrating cranial injuries
  • Strained neck muscles

From many passenger vehicles, the crashworthiness is in part a function of the roof crush resistance. For years in the U.S., a passenger car roof was only required to carry a minimum of 1.5 times the weight of the entire vehicle itself. The good news is that federal safety legislation sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009 mandated that all vehicles under 6,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight (GVW) have a crush strength of three times the vehicle’s weight by the 2017 model year. Phase-in of that new standard officially began with 2012 model year vehicles.

Although this was heralded as an improvement to motor vehicle safety, the bad news is that many of the larger and heavier SUVs are not covered by the increased roof-crush standard. Only those vehicles under 6,000 pounds GVW are covered. Gross vehicle weight refers to a vehicle’s curb weight PLUS its maximum passenger and cargo load. Many large SUVs have a GVW of more than 6,000 pounds.

And while all new vehicles under 6,000 pounds GVW will be built to the higher roof strength requirements, there will be many millions of older vehicles operating on public roads that conform only to the previous standard. In other words, caution would still be advised when buying or operating those older vehicles. As auto and trucking accident attorneys, Lebowitz & Mzhen recommend that anyone injured in an SUV rollover accident contact a qualified personal injury lawyer to discuss their case and learn whether or not an injury claim could be filed.

As skilled trial lawyers, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen is prepared to fight for your rights when you have been the victim of a negligence-related traffic accident. This would include situations involving SUV rollovers, whether a result of an accident with another vehicle or a single-vehicle crash. It is possible, because of the vehicle dynamics of larger, more massive SUVs, that the vehicle itself could be caused to rollover if one of its tires hits a soft curb or loosely packed roadway shoulder. In such cases, the vehicle can flip onto its side. Hitting a pothole, sliding on an icy road, or slipping into a ditch can all be factors in causing a potentially deadly rollover wreck.

If you have been badly hurt as a result of a rollover crash or any other kind of car, truck or motorcycle collision, we recommend that as a victim you contact a qualified automobile accident attorney to discuss your case. As professional trial lawyers experienced in handling traffic-related injury accidents, Lebowitz & Mzhen is happy to speak with you during a free, no obligation consultation. You may contact us toll-free at (800) 654-1949, or email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to arrange for a meeting time.