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Vehicle Manufacturer Pays for Unsafe Roof Which Causes Death

Atlee Hall attorneys Jaime Jackson and Robin Jabour recently settled a case involving an unsafe roof structure in an SUV that collapsed in a rollover, striking the passenger’s head resulting in her death.

Our client who was wearing her seatbelt was a passenger in an SUV that drifted off to the edge of the roadway striking the ditch causing the SUV to rollover. During the rollover sequence, the roof on the passenger side collapsed downward striking the passenger on the head resulting in a head injury that caused her death.

In a rollover collision such as this case, the vehicle’s roof structure is an important safety component to provide the occupant with survival space or a non-encroachment zone to keep him or her in the safe confines of the seat and to provide him or her with a survival space. In protecting people in rollover accidents it is important to keep structures from intruding into the occupant’s survival space where these structures may strike the occupant resulting in severe injury or death, as happened in this case.

A rollover accident is always serious and will put a vehicle’s design and safety equipment to the test. This type of accident has the potential to expose a myriad of defects, therefore it is important to first review why it happened, and second, whether the vehicle and its safety systems adequately protected the occupant. It is critical to quickly determine for instance, whether a tire or mechanical failure was involved, and whether electronic stability control (ESC) was incorporated and performed as intended. If the occupant was not adequately protected, an analysis of the injuries may expose defects in areas such as the roof, seatbelt, or failure to equip the vehicle with rollover airbags, also referred to rollover canopies or curtains. A quick and thorough investigation is critical in identifying a product defect, crashworthiness or other claim exists.

In this case, extensive testing was done dropping the production SUV from a height of only six inches on its roof which resulted in severe crushing of the roof structure into the occupant space. The same vehicle was then modified with a stronger roof structure and dropped again from the same height, this time with very minimal intrusion into the occupant space.

Atlee Hall argued on behalf of the family of the passenger that this SUV was defective because it had a weak roof structure which collapsed too easily into the occupant space striking the passenger’s head. Atlee Hall argued that there were several alternative designs that would have prevented this needless death, which included a stronger roof structure, or other safety features such as rollover airbags or canopies.

To learn more about your legal rights and options as a victim of auto product liability, please contact Atlee Hall, LLP today for a free consultation. We have offices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but help victims across the state.

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