Rollover Accidents: Who Exactly are At Fault?

According to the US Department of Transportation, 2014 was, thus far, the safest year for car (or passenger vehicle) occupants. This pronouncement is based on reports gathered by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a division of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Based on FARS’ 2014 report, only 21,022 car passengers died in the overall count of fatal motor vehicle crashes (motor vehicle refers to cars, minivans, large passenger vans, pickup trucks and SUVs) as against the 21,361 in 2013, the 21,906 in 2012, and the 21,413 in 2011 (from 2010 down to 1986, death rate due to car accidents ranged from 22,351 to 34,105).

But rather than be relieved by the thought that strict implementation of road safety rules may finally be paying off, the NHTSA was alarmed anew after the first quarter of 2015 due to an 8.1 percent increase in the number of motor vehicle crashes compared to the first quarter of 2014.

This increase in the rate of fatal car accidents has caused the NHTSA to launch a chain of safety initiatives, such as improving safety through technology innovations and a renewed effort to fight the major causes of car accidents, which include drowsy driving, distracted driving, speeding, and failure to use a car’s safety features, like seat belts and child seats. Besides drivers and other road users (other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians), the NHTSA has also made the responsibility of promoting and ensuring road safety a task of federal, State and local governments, vehicle manufacturers, law enforcers and safety advocates.

The most serious car accident injuries often result from head-on collisions and rollover accidents (with the speed of the vehicles involved in the accident greatly affecting the severity of the injury). A rollover accident, specifically, refers to a vehicle tipping over onto its side or roof. According to the Department of Transportation, this extremely violent type of accident happens more than 280,000 times every year, claiming more than 10,000 lives.

Any type of motor vehicle can rollover; however, the types of vehicles more prone to rolling over are pickup trucks, vans and SUVs which are taller and narrower compared to cars. These vehicles have a higher center of gravity, making these more top-heavy; thus, any sideway force, which is usually developed whenever these vehicles round a curve or during side impact accidents, the center of gravity shifts to one side (of the vehicle), dramatically affecting its balance. Besides making too sharp a turn and side impacts, rollovers may also happen when a vehicle trips on something, like road shoulder or a pothole.

As explained on the website of Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, a rollover accident is basically due to a vehicle’s defective design, namely, its high center of gravity. But since there are situations wherein rollover accidents occur due to another person’s fault, like another driver hitting a vehicle on its side or road engineers failing to repair reported defects on roads, liability towards the injured innocent victim may not just be cast on the vehicle manufacturer, but also on other persons who may have contributed to the accident.