As a rollover accident attorney in California, I know that incidents where vehicles overturn can be some of the most serious types of vehicle accidents that can often result in fatalities or other catastrophic injuries to people who are inside of the vehicles. While driver negligence may be the cause of a rollover accident, some are caused by defective parts that are installed in the car. When a driver’s negligence causes a rollover accident, his or her passengers may be able to file civil lawsuits against the driver. When the accident results from car defects, the automaker may be liable for the injuries suffered by all of the car’s occupants.

Dangers of rollover accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a third of all passenger traffic fatalities that occurred in 2004 happened in vehicle rollover accidents. During that same year, 2.7 percent of people who were occupying vehicles that were involved in rollover collisions died. By contrast, 0.2 percent of people who were inside of vehicles involved in other types of collisions were killed. A total of 10,533 people in the U.S. were killed in rollover accidents in 2004.

Driver-related factors

According to the NHTSA, several driver-related factors stood out as causes for many rollover accidents. People who were speeding were more likely to roll over. A majority of rollover accidents happened when the drivers were passing other vehicles rather than when they were turning. Younger drivers were also more likely to be involved in rollover accidents than were older drivers. Among drivers who were older than 25, 8 percent were involved in rollover accidents. Among those who were under the age of 25, 13 percent had rollover collisions.

The report also showed that the rollover rate for collisions was 15 percent when alcohol was involved and 9 percent when it was not. The study did not show any relationship between the driver’s sex and the risk of rollover accidents. Interestingly, people who used restraints were far less likely to be involved in a rollover accident than were drivers who did not. The NHTSA theorized that this was because people who use seatbelts are more prone to drive safely than are people who choose not to wear them.

Vehicle-related factors

In 2004, the vehicle type with the highest probability of rollovers was sport-utility vehicles at 23 percent. Passenger cars had a rollover probability of 10 percent and pickup trucks had a rollover probability of 17 percent. Older models of all of the vehicle types were more likely to be involved in rollover crashes than were newer models.

Injuries from rollover accidents

Many serious injuries can be caused by rollover accidents even when people are using safety restraints. Occupants may be slammed about the inside of the vehicles as they roll over, suffering traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and fractures. Catastrophic injuries and fatalities also sometimes happen when the vehicles’ roofs collapse while the vehicles are rolling, crushing the occupants who are inside. While seat belt use reduces the risk of being ejected, some people who are using restraints may still be at least partially ejected while a vehicle is rolling over, causing them to be crushed between the vehicle and the ground. People who are totally ejected from a rolling vehicle may be killed or permanently injured when they strike the ground or surrounding objects such as trees.

Legal rights of passengers in rollover accidents

When a driver’s negligence results in a rollover accident, the injured passengers have the legal right to file personal injury lawsuits against the responsible drivers. If the driver was killed in the accident, injured passengers may sue the driver’s estate. When the passenger is killed, his or her family may sue the responsible driver or his or her estate through a wrongful death lawsuit. Civil lawsuits may help the injured passengers to hold the responsible driver liable to pay monetary damages to cover their suffered losses.

Potential manufacturer liability when a defect causes a rollover accident

In some cases, a defect with the vehicle itself may have caused the rollover accident. When that happens, all of the vehicle’s occupants may sue the car maker through a products liability lawsuit. Other parties that might hold liability in this type of scenario also include those who were responsible for designing and making the part that was defective.

How a personal injury attorney can help

When people are catastrophically injured in rollover accidents through no fault of their own, they may file lawsuits against all of those who were responsible. A California rollover accident attorney may review the facts of a case in order to determine who was at fault in causing the accident.