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SUV Rollover Risk and What You Can Do to Avoid It [2023]

[2023 Update]: Despite continued safety efforts, SUVs, pickups and vans are most susceptible to rollover accidents due to their narrow, tall build. SUV rollover risk remains an issue because they are top-heavy and have a higher center of gravity, so their balance and stability is reduced. And, while rollover accidents make up a small percentage of overall traffic accidents, the continue to account for a high percentage of accident fatalities. In fact, the National Highway Safety Administration reports that close to 35% of passenger vehicle fatalities resulted from rollovers.

[2022 Update]: SUV rollover risk remains relevant in 2022. A rollover occurs when a vehicle tips on to its side or roof during a traffic accident, and may result from impact with another vehicle or a stationary object. Often, the vehicle occupants are ejected from the vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 7,182 passenger vehicle occupants died in rollover accidents in 2020, showing the continued need to be aware of how to avoid such situations.

[2021 Update]: In February, Ford Motor Co. announced the recall of all 2021 Bronco Sport vehicles manufactured on December 6th, 2020, citing installation of the wrong lower control arm in affected models, which Ford estimated at a rate of 50%. The incorrect part was said to reduce vehicle stability and increase SUV rollover risk when at maximum roof load. If you’ve been injured in an SUV roll over and suspect a manufacturer is to blame, Avrek Law may be able to help you seek compensation – read on to learn more.

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Given the proper circumstance, any kind of vehicle can roll over. However, taller and narrower vehicles, like sport utility vehicles (commonly called SUVs), have added instability from a higher center of gravity, and are more prone to these types of accidents.

SUV rollover accidents are among the most dangerous types of accidents that can occur on the road. Although rollover accidents only account for about three percent of serious vehicle accidents, those that do occur account for thirty percent of those killed while riding in passenger vehicles.

In a rollover accident, the occupants are thrown violently about the vehicle, resulting in an elevated risk of serious head and neck injuries. In cases where somebody is thrown from the vehicle, the ensuing impact has a high probability of being fatal.

Do SUVs Roll? The Surprising Truth

Millions of SUVs are sold annually to shoppers in the United States who, as the result of messaging in certain commercials and advertisements, believe that all SUVs are safe, sturdy, and rugged.

Unfortunately, many shoppers are unaware that SUVs can be more dangerous than advertised. In some cases, this is the result of certain manufacturers and dealers withholding vital safety information, while failing to inform prospective consumers of the risks involved with SUVs. If you’ve been involved in an SUV rollover accident due to negligent actions such as these and are now wondering who is liable in a truck accident, you may have a case – contact us for a free consultation!

Statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only further exemplify the inherently dangerous nature of SUV rollover accidents:

  • More than 280,000 rollover accidents are reported each year in the United States.
  • Over 58,000 people are injured in SUV rollover accidents each year.
  • SUV rollover accidents increase the likelihood of serious injuries by more than 36%.
  • Over 90% of SUV rollover accidents involve a single vehicle.
  • Approximately 4,500 people die in SUV accidents each year.
  • 63% of SUV rollover accident fatalities occurred due to the occupants being ejected from the vehicles.
  • Rollover accidents account for more than half of all single-vehicle accident deaths.

Why Do SUVs Rollover?

Although any vehicle can roll over, SUVs, pickups, and vans are more susceptible to these types of accidents than traditional cars. Studies and years of legal proceeding have shown that certain types of vehicles have an unreasonably high tendency to roll over, even under average driving conditions, including:

  • Sport utility vehicles (SUVs)
  • Fifteen-passenger vans
  • Pickup trucks
  • Large commercial trucks
  • Any vehicle with defective tires

SUVs, unlike passenger cars, have a high center of gravity which puts both the driver and their passengers at high risk for rollover accidents and rollover accident injuries. Think of it like carrying a stack of boxes with totally different weights: once the heavier boxes are on the bottom, it’s easier to control them. While it’s possible to hold the heavier boxes on top, even the slightest direction in change and speed can send them tumbling. Likewise, the fundamental risk in an SUV is a high center of gravity combined with a heavy weight.

Generally, a rollover accident happens very quickly. Your SUV may tip over and begin rolling before you even notice what happened. Even the most careful driver should use emergency maneuvering to avoid an accident. However, in an SUV, emergency steering could lead to a vehicle rollover. Other scenarios which may cause single vehicle SUV rollovers include hitting a guardrail, bumping the curb, and driving on loose gravel.

Four Specific Types of SUV Rollover Accidents Include:

  • Ramp Rollover: A SUV can roll over if one side drives up a ramp or any other high object.
  • Lateral Force Rollover: When an SUV travels at a fast speed around a curve, the vehicle can be forced into a roll because of its high center of gravity.
  • Sideways Skid Rollover: When traction is lost in the rear wheels of the SUV, it can easily spin, resulting in its tires hitting objects and causing a rollover.
  • Site-Slop Rollover: When an SUV drives off-road or unintentionally leave a paved roadway, the uneven surface can cause it to roll over.

Some Other Common Types of Reasons Why SUV Rollovers Happen Include:

  • Reckless driving/excessive speed
  • No knowledge of SUV construction
  • Lack of understanding of the higher center of gravity of SUVs
  • Putting too much weight in the SUV (making it less stable)

Many people purchase SUVs, pickups, and other types of large vehicles as a family automobile, believing the height and weight of the vehicle can shield their families in an accident. Unfortunately, that height shifts the vehicles’ heavy engines and other parts higher and farther to the rear, making them easier to tip over after an accident, a bump in the road, or even a normal maneuver.

A minor annoyance for drivers of small cars, like dodging an animal on the road, can lead to a serious accident for drivers and passengers on these larger vehicles. These deficiencies in design result in thousands of preventable deaths each year. However, manufacturers still build and sell vehicles that use them.

SUV Roof Safety

Rollover accidents, in which a vehicle turns on its side or its roof, may be the most serious type of auto accident. In vehicles with weak roofs, these roofs also can be crushed during a rollover, resulting in additional head injuries and serious puncture wounds from broken metal and glass.

SUVs are naturally far more susceptible to rolling over than any other passenger vehicles, and designs with weak roofs can make rollover accidents considerably worse. When an SUV rolls over and the roof collapses inward, it can cause serious harm to the people inside.

First responders helping in the aftermath of an SUV rollover risk accident

How Roll Bars Can Help Prevent Injury in an SUV Roll Over

Even though statistics clearly depict the danger of this flaw, few SUVs are built with basic roll bars. The roofs of passenger cars and other vehicles of 6,000 pounds or less are federally required to be able to withstand one and a half times their weight. There’s no such requirement for heavier light trucks, commercial big rigs, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers.

These vehicles’ heavy weight makes safety measures like roll bars and roof reinforcements vital, but adding them drives up manufacturers’ prices. Because there’s no federal law requiring these roof reinforcements, many manufacturers still don’t include them. As a result, Americans sustain more than 1,000 preventable deaths every year.

SUV owners should be able to count on their vehicle to protect them in a crash, just like any other car owner. However, the increased tendency of SUVs to flip and roll over actually makes them more dangerous, leading to more injuries. Many of these injuries are serious, or even fatal. Victims who are lucky enough to survive a rollover accident often suffer catastrophic injuries that can significantly impact their lives.

Common SUV Rollover Injuries

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury, which can cause full or partial paralysis
  • Lower cervical neck fractures
  • Back injury
  • Broken or fractured bones

Tips to Reduce SUV Rollover Risk

Although these statistics may be alarming, they should not deter you from enjoying the driving experience of an SUV, or from purchasing an SUV altogether. While you may not be able to completely avoid a rollover accident, you can reduce the chance of such accidents happening if you take certain precautions, including:

  • Driving carefully and avoiding excessive speeding
  • Not carrying too much weight in your SUV
  • Buckling up and making sure all passengers are buckled up
  • Recognizing your visual limitations
  • Regularly maintaining your SUV
  • Learning to drive your SUV safely
  • Avoiding sudden or sharp steering changes

While you can’t control the actions of other drivers, you can make sure your own driving is safe and take defensive driving measures to avoid potential hazards on the road. Regardless of what caused your SUV to roll over, including a defective tire, you should immediately contact an experienced SUV rollover lawyer in California, or wherever the accident occurred, if you were injured.

Infographic with tips to stay safe on the road and reduce SUV rollover risk from Avrek Law

[Infographic Text]

Common sense and routine maintenance can greatly increase your odds of avoiding a rollover and walking away from one if it happens. Here are some survival tips:

  • Newer is Better: The improvement might be because more people are buckling up, or because vehicles have better build quality and safety systems, but it’s probably a result of both.
  • Wear Safety Belts: Belts help keep you in the seat so you are not tossed around in a rollover crash. About half of rollover fatalities occur when people are partly or completely ejected from the vehicle.
  • Check the Tires: Make sure all the tires are in good shape and properly inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Check the inflation pressure at least once a month. Replacement tires should be similar to the vehicle’s original set.
  • Watch the Load: Overloading any vehicle, particularly SUVs and pickups, decreases its stability. The worst practice is to place heavy loads on the roof.
    • Try to stay well within the load rating specified by the manufacturer.
    • Try to place the heaviest cargo low on the floor and as far from the tailgate and as close to the center of the vehicle as possible.
  • Watch Your Speed: Speed makes a vehicle’s tendencies to rollover more severe, and it also makes more demands on the driver’s attention and skill. About 40 percent of fatal rollovers involve excessive speed, the government reports.
  • Beware on County Roads: Almost three-quarters of fatal rollovers occur in rural areas on roads where the speed limit in 55 mph or more. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, those roads tend to be undivided highways without barriers.

What You Need to Do to Bring an SUV Rollover Accident Claim

If you’ve been injured in an SUV or car rollover, contact an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. California has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, meaning you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of your accident.

You Can Potentially Recover Against Two Parties in a Rollover Accident

  • The first is the other driver (if they were at fault because they failed to take other reasonable precautions or they violated traffic laws).
  • The second is your vehicle’s manufacturer (if your vehicle didn’t have adequate safety features to protect you in a rollover accident, or if a poor design led to an increased risk of your vehicle rolling over).

Inherent SUV Rollover Risk in the Design of a Vehicle

Some common parties that may be responsible in SUV rollover accidents include the manufacturers and designers of SUVs for designing a weak roof structure and a high center of gravity on their sports utility vehicles. To obtain compensation from the manufacturer of an SUV that has been involved in a rollover accident, the plaintiff may try to show that the manufacturer designed the vehicle in a way that was unreasonably dangerous.

According to California law, the plaintiff must prove the existence of a design defect in a vehicle by satisfying the risk-utility test. Under this approach, a design is considered unreasonably dangerous when the risks that it poses outweigh the utility of the design. The plaintiff must also show that a reasonable alternative design was available at the time that the manufacturer selected the allegedly dangerous design.

Depending on the situation, the plaintiff may also allege that the vehicle suffered from a defect during the manufacturing process that rendered it unreasonably dangerous, or that the manufacturer failed to provide sufficient warnings when it marketed, advertised, and sold the vehicle. This might include failing to provide warnings about a vehicle’s propensity to roll when handled in a certain manner.

In some cases, a plaintiff may also assert a negligence-based cause of action against the vehicle manufacturer. This requires the plaintiff to show that the manufacturer was negligent or failed to use reasonable care when it designed and built the vehicle or a component.

Personal Injury Cases Require a Plaintiff to Prove Causation

In other words, the plaintiff must show that the problem with the SUV was the but-for cause of his or her harm. Next, the plaintiff must submit evidence supporting the forms of compensation that he or she is seeking. Some common examples include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and diminished quality of life.

How an Experienced SUV Rollover Risk Accident Lawyer Can Help

If you’ve been injured in an SUV rollover accident due to the negligent actions of a manufacturer or another driver, we may be able to help. The attorneys at Avrek Law have more than 50 years of combined experience successfully resolving personal injury cases. With more than $1 Billion recovered in over 45,000 cases, our track record speaks for itself. Have questions? We offer free consultations – contact us today!

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