Rollover Crashworthiness – 1998 Chevrolet S-10 Pick-up
William A. Atlee, Jr., Esquire and Jaime D. Jackson, Esquire recently settled a case against General Motors involving a pickup truck that rolled over one and a half times in the middle of the roadway, yet the roof structure of the truck collapsed downward into the occupant space, compressing the driver’s head and neck against his chest, resulting in positional asphyxiation. Plaintiff alleged that the design of the vehicle’s roof structure was too weak, allowing it to collapse downward onto the occupant’s head and upper body, restricting his ability to breathe, resulting in positional asphyxiation. Extensive drop testing was performed to prove that when dropped from a height of only fifteen inches, the roof structure catastrophically collapsed into the occupant space, yet when simple reasonable alternative designs were made to the roof structure, such as strengthening the metal and adding reinforcements, again when the vehicle was dropped from fifteen inches, there was less than an inch intrusion into the occupant space. Plaintiff contended that the roof should have been strong enough to maintain its shape and not collapse into the occupant seating area. This concept is known as a safety cage or a non-encroachment zone. As part of a vehicle’s structural support system a roof creates a “non-encroachment zone” or “survival space” that should protect occupants in a crash. Vehicles should be designed to maintain their structural integrity in a rollover and the roof should not collapse downward or inward onto the occupant, striking them where it may cause a significant brain injury, spinal cord injury or death. Atlee Hall, LLP has handled several rollover crashworthiness cases involving sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, obtaining successful recoveries for its clients and their families.