Your Guy Dove Into an Empty Swimming Pool Wearing a Car - The Mechanics of a Vehicle Rollover

October 18, 2009

CrasherCarl:  EDGR Engineering, Design and Government Regulations

            Your guy dove into an empty swimming pool wearing a car.

I am a long time CxSI - a Crash Scene Investigator. That means I am an engineer who examines the two aspects of an automobile crash. If a lawsuit is going to be attempted, I may be the one qualified to write a technical report and later, testify in court. Experts +witnesses for the plaintiff and defendant will try to persuade the jury that their answers to the following questions are the most accurate, understandable and credible.

First question: Whether the scene is found as a head-on, a tail-ender, a side impact, or even an off-the-road rollover, why did the crash occur? Almost always that is because one or both drivers did something dumb. That has some impact on the question about fault and who pays.

Second question: Why were the injuries worse than they would have been if another make/model vehicle was involved? For instance, what if the front seat back flopped ahead and added crushing forces to the person wearing a lap/shoulder belt in front? There are many elements of the car design to consider. If I convince the jury that the design of the car contained elements that are clearly defective compared to the current state of the art, the car manufacturer pays for the consequences. That usually results in much bigger pay-offs than the answer to question number one. The size of the award to the plaintiff will become huge if we establish that the cars management knew of the defect but continued to put the car on the market. Punitive Damages are the jury's way of making sure the loser will not forget to do a better job next time.

It doesn't always work out that way. We lose many cases because the auto companies have very good, and very well-paid lawyers and experts. And sometimes, personal injury lawyers bring cases for my review that really wont fly.

Sometimes I have to give my lawyer client the  bad news, "From a technical standpoint, you don't have a strong case because ...". They should prefer to hear this from me, because if you go ahead, you'll hear it from the other side -- after you have spent a lot of money and time on a lawsuit you won't win. The point I'm making with that colorful remark (in the title above) is this: if your client was in a car or truck that went off the road and fell a considerable distance onto its roof, the people inside will be hurt badly even if they are using the seatbelts, and even if the roof were so well made that it did not crush at all. For instance if the vehicle falls off an expressway overpass or bounces high during a violent rollover, and lands hard on its top, the roof comes to an abrupt stop when it lands on the ground. Then the occupant continues HIS downward travel and his head also comes to an abrupt stop. His neck takes the loading of decelerating the rest of his body.

We were offered a case where a pickup truck approaching a freeway overpass was forced into the median by a car that came wildly up the on-ramp and zoomed into the two travel lanes. The pickup was launched where the median ended at the gap between the pair of freeway bridges above the highway below. The truck fell and flipped so that it landed on the pavement of the cross road -- splat -- the roof was flattened! The occupants were unrestrained so they suffered fatal injuries.

But, I told the attorney,

What if the truck had its roof reinforced like those of the NASCAR racing pickups?

The Car Connection
See the winners »
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.