San Francisco Injury Lawyer Comments on Rollover Accident

Last month a federal court jury awarded $18.3 million in damages to a Bay Area musician who suffered a fractured spine and was paralyzed when his bands rented Ford E-350 van rolled over on an icy highway in 2005. During the rollover his seat broke loose from the floor and pinned him against the roof. Usually death or injuries that occur during a rollover are the result of vehicle instability, roof crush and other compartment failures, or defective seatbelts– all of which are preventable. The overall large number of drashes involving fifteen-passenger vans, especially loaded fifteen-passenger vans, have raised the question as to whether they are unusually susceptible to rollovers. According to a piece of research put out by the NHTSA, fifteen-passenger vans differ from most light truck vehicle in that they have large payload capacity and the occupants sit fairly high up in the vehicle. Therefore, when loaded, the vehicle may have a much worse rollover propensity. Also, when a 15 passenger van is loaded, its center of gravity shifts upward and rearward, increasing the likelihood to rollover. This shift in the center of gravity also increases the potential for loss of control and panic maneuvers.

Here at the Brod Law Firm, we believe the auto industry should be held accountable for death due to rollovers on roads and highways. As a result of the above mentioned types of litigation,and other types like it, the automobile industry is in the process of changing the design of these vehicles so that they are safer and more controllable. Some of the new technologies being employed are:
1. Electronic Steering Control, controls designed to assist drivers when they are in emergency situations. This technology helps drivers maintain control of the vehicle during extreme steering maneuvers by keeping the vehicle headed in the driver’s intended direction, even when the vehicle nears or exceeds the limits of road traction.
2. Rollover Air Bags that deploy downward from the overhead roof rail, very close to the side windows. The rollover sensing system can determine an imminent rollover when the roll angle is very small and all four wheels are still on the ground. When deployed as rollover air bags, side-impact head air bags will stay inflated longer to help protect the heads of the occupants during the rollover. They also keep the occupants of the outboard seats from being thrown from the vehicle. The combination of these air bags and properly worn safety belts can significantly reduce the chance of ejection.
3. Variable Ride-Height Suspension, a mechanism that raises or lowers the ride height of the vehicle while it is in motion. Some VRHS systems operate automatically, while others require the driver to select the appropriate mode. VRHS systems can have a favorable effect on a vehicle’s likelihood to rollover because they lower the height of the vehicle’s center of gravity and improve stability for highway driving.