Rollover Crash Lawyers in Santa Barbara
When a vehicle tips over, it is a very serious situation. Rollovers have a higher fatality rate than any other type of car accident. There were 9.1 million passenger-vehicle crashes in 2010, and only 2.1% were rollovers – but they accounted for 35% of all crash-related deaths.
Three-fourths of all rollovers take place in rural areas; not surprisingly Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas have their fair share. Drivers who are unfamiliar with these roads sometimes panic, steer erratically, and lose control of their vehicles. We have seen many such accidents – especially with sports utility vehicles - and the injuries are usually horrific; from crushed limbs to spinal cord trauma to burns.
If you were hurt in a rollover crash, or you lost a loved one to a wrongful death, contact NordstrandBlack PC. Our Santa Barbara car accident lawyers know where to look to determine liability for these wrecks. It may be that an auto manufacturer or the City is partially to blame, and we’ll find out. Call (805) 962-2022 for a free consultation.
SUVs gained notoriety in the 1990s for their tendency to roll over in collisions. Thousands of people were killed over the years because of these vehicles’ poorly-designed weight distribution. However, a recent Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study found that SUVs built after 2009 are much safer – in fact, they are less likely to roll over than passenger cars!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a static stability factor (SSF) to test how safe rollover-prone vehicles are, and many new models pass the test with flying colors. There are also safety features that manufacturers can include to decrease the risk of rollover injury or death, which some do:
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC): Required by federal mandate in all new passenger vehicles, this technology helps drivers maintain control during extreme steering maneuvers by keeping the vehicle headed in the driver's intended direction, even when it exceeds traction. This helps to prevent “spinning out.”
- Variable Ride-Height Suspension (VRHS): This new technology can raise or lower the ride height of the vehicle while it is in motion.
- Side-impact airbags: Also known as “curtains,” side-impact airbags, in conjunction with properly latched seatbelts, have been found to decrease the odds of occupant ejection in a rollover.
Older sports utility vehicles, as well as other top-heavy vehicles, are still more likely to tip over during routine driving maneuvers. These claims must be handled differently because a manufacturer may also be at fault.
Whether the problem was roof pillar failure, sunroof weakness, seatbelt failure, door latch failure, or a tire blowout, lawsuits over defective automotive products have a simple standard for liability, but they are hard to prove. There is no negligence required in these cases; manufacturers in California are held to a strict liability standard: if you used the product as intended, and it harmed you, that is grounds for compensation from the manufacturer. Maybe there was a flaw in the design of the vehicle or part, in the manufacturing process, or the company sold the vehicle to a consumer without including a proper warning about the rollover risk.
These cases are difficult because we must hire the best engineers and accident reconstruction experts to prove your case. But our law firm will go after big corporations – Ford, Toyota, Honda, Jeep, Nissan, Chevrolet, Kia, and Mazda, have all produced defective vehicles and we have the knowledge and resources to get justice for our clients.
The size and shape of a vehicle may contribute to a rollover, but the most important factor is ultimately the center of gravity:
- SUVs: As mentioned above, older SUVs are notorious for their rollover risk.
- Pickup trucks: Like SUVs, pickup trucks sit higher off the ground, but they are not weighted in the bed/on the rear axle, which makes them more likely to spin out in poor road conditions (rain, snow) or on an incline.
- 15-passenger vans: The real danger with these vans, which are often used for group tours or church trips, is inexperienced drivers. Many passenger vans are rented for an occasion, and the person who is chosen to drive may not have the ability to maneuver it safely. In these cases, the rental company, the renter, and the driver may be liable to the injured passengers.
- Buses: Whether a chartered bus, a tour bus taking you from vineyard to vineyard, or an ordinary school bus, drivers of these large vehicles need to use extreme caution on winding roads. If a bus driver makes a mistake, dozens of lives are at risk.
- Semi-trucks: Commercial trucks, including 18-wheelers, wear out their tires quickly. If the trucking company does not inspect and replace tires regularly, it could lead to a blowout and out-of-control big rig. To increase profit, many trucking companies overload their trailers. An overloaded or unevenly balanced trailer is much more likely to swing wide and roll over.
In general, taller vehicles have more potential to tip over when a driver is performing evasive maneuvers. Some hazardous conditions that can lead to rollovers include:
- Traveling at high speeds
- Making tight turns
- Poor handling or steering system
- Driver inexperience with vehicle of that size
- Obstacle on road, even a curb or guardrail
- Poor or lacking signage or traffic signals
- A change in road surface, i.e., from paved to dirt
A single-vehicle crash occurs when a driver loses control of his vehicle, often hurtling off the road into a ditch or colliding with a stationary object. The 101, the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 154, Cold Spring Bridge, and Highway 166 have recently hosted these accidents. A majority of rollover crashes are single-vehicle accidents; and most of them are “tripped” due to an obstacle in or at the side of the road. A significant number of these wrecks also occur due to a driver swerving to avoid an obstacle or another car.
NordstrandBlack PC is very good at finding policy coverage for people in single-vehicle crashes, working with their own insurance company. In addition, we look for other parties that contributed to the crash - the street was poorly designed or left unmaintained by the county or city, or another driver cut you off or forced you to avoid an accident. A steering defect or bad tire or your mechanic may be partially responsible. In short, you should never assume an accident is your fault. Let our experts investigate.
The short answer is, rollover accidents cause “worse injuries.” Roof crush and occupant ejection are the two biggest dangers associated with rollovers. The victims may suffer traumatic brain injuries, either a closed head injury from the violent twisting motion, or a depressed skull fracture, causing dangerous pressure on the brain. Spinal cord discs can be ruptured or herniated, or the spinal column can be severed. The extremities, like legs and arms, are in danger of crush injuries, shattered bones, or amputation. Your internal organs can also suffer life-threatening damage due to the blunt force trauma.
The most insidious danger from these crashes comes from being upside-down or trapped inside the vehicle, when you may suffer an anoxic brain injury due to positional asphyxia – that is, being squeezed into a space where your lungs cannot expand properly, and you do not get enough oxygen to your body.
After a rollover, the mechanics are also harder to reconstruct. Your attorney must deal with complex scientific and engineering principles to show how the crash occurred in order to uncover fault. They will also need to know all the local laws, and examine the other driver’s behavior. There is a legal standard known as “comparative negligence” in California, which means that a victim who is partially to blame for a crash can still recover compensation from other at-fault parties.
If you have been involved in a rollover and suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one, call NordstrandBlack PC. We have helped hundreds of clients recover compensatory damages for their losses, including past and future medical bills and needs, prescription medications, in-home care, vehicle repair or replacement, and lost wages. You can also recover for your past and future pain and suffering, emotional duress, and more.
For decades, our law firm has served Oxnard, Camarillo, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Goleta, Isla Vista, Santa Maria, Vandenberg, Santa Ynez, Solvang, and all of California. Call (805) 962-2022 to set up a free consultation.