SUV Rollover Accidents

Sport utility vehicles – known as “SUV’s” for short- started gaining popularity in the 1990s. They were generally seen as a safer, more attractive alternative to the clunky minivan or a smaller car.

But these vehicles came with a serious problem: They were at high risk of rollover, which is the overturning of a vehicle. It’s known to be one of the deadliest crashes in which motorists can be involved. In fact, very few walk away from an SUV rollover accident unscathed.

The Fort Lauderdale rollover accident lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm, know people involved in these type of wrecks often suffer severe injuries, including:

  • Traumatic brain injury caused by sudden impact to the head;
  • Spinal cord injuries;
  • Internal organ injuries;
  • Broken bones;
  • Lacerations and contusions.

Spinal cord and brain injuries, if they aren’t fatal, can result in paralysis or permanent mental disabilities that could render a person in need of extensive medical treatment and perhaps even around-the-clock care for life.

These kinds of injuries put victims in a position where they must fight for compensation beyond their own insurance coverage. Our Fort Lauderdale attorneys recognize these injuries may result in lifelong health issues, pain and suffering, and it’s the at-fault party who should be responsible for burdening those costs.

Why Have SUVs Been More Prone to Rollovers?

The major reason SUVs have historically been so dangerous is because of their higher center of gravity. Being top-heavy, they were more unstable.

Although these vehicles were larger and higher to the ground – which should have, all other things equal - been an advantage in a crash, the unstable structure of these vehicles meant they were more prone to tip or roll. And because rollovers are deadlier than most other type of wrecks due to the ejection hazard, SUVs have historically been more dangerous than passenger cars or minivans.

In 1997, SUV rollover accidents accounted for one-third of all highway vehicle occupant deaths, and the risk for those in SUVs and light trucks was about 50 percent.

By 2003, not much had changed. Rollover crashes represented 3 percent of all collisions, but still accounted for 31 percent of occupant deaths. More than half of all single-vehicle crashes that proved fatal were rollovers. In cases where the SUV was heavier (5,000 pounds or more), 78 percent of occupant deaths were attributed to rollover.

Of course, things like reckless and unsafe driving, poor road design and tire failure are also contributing factors in many rollovers, but the biggest problem was their instability.

In 2001, an opinion poll revealed 85 percent of the public was in favor of a federal rollover standard.

That’s not exactly what they got, but our attorneys know that there have been some marked improvements.

Improvements in SUV Safety

Meaningful federal action on this issue has been slow. The National Highway Safety Administration first began talking about a national rollover safety standard back in 1973. To this day, no such standard has ever been enacted.

In 1986, the agency declared rollovers the most dangerous for those in passenger vehicles, and two years later, consumer unions petitioned the agency for protection against unreasonable risk of rollover.

In the years that followed, a number of studies were conducted and various proposals were made to Congress. An attempt in 1994 to enact rollover safety standards was axed when it was revealed study authors used old data that didn’t account for SUVs in a cost-benefit analysis. SUV manufacturers were ultimately in 1999 advised to warn of the high risk of rollover, with a reminder to obey speed limits and avoid abrupt maneuvers.

Still, it wasn’t until many years later the NHTSA made rollover risk a standard part of vehicle safety ratings, creating some market incentive for manufacturers to produce safer vehicles.

What really changed the game were electronic stability systems widely adopted by almost all SUV manufacturers. These systems significantly reduce the risk of rollover by alerting to the possibility and even automatically deploying countermeasures when an impending rollover is sensed.

In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in June 2011 that SUVs were safer than cars, when accounting for similar weight. The about-face on the safety issue is largely attributed to the implementation of these electronic stability systems to reduce rollover.

Safety Concerns Persist

Still, not all SUVs are created equal in terms of safety and rollover risks.

First, our Fort Lauderdale lawyers understand there are two basic kinds of SUVs – crossovers and truck-based. The former are derivative of cars and have an advantage in protecting against rollovers because they are lower to the ground. Truck-based SUVs, which are higher to the ground, still tend to score lower on the federal star-rating safety feature.

Other improvements include manufacturers who are making their vehicles lower to the ground, and tire manufacturers that have improved tire technology, reducing the risk of blow-out that can precipitate a rollover crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates electronic stability systems slash the risk of a rollover by 75 percent for those in SUVs and 72 percent for those in smaller cars.

But these features aren’t required for the many older vehicles that are still on the road. That’s why we continue to see cases of serious and fatal SUV rollover accidents all over Florida and across the country.

Contact Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Richard Ansara at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 for a free consultation.

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