Is Your Vehicle Crashworthy? December 12, 2009.

If your vehicle is crashworthy it means it will adequately protect you during a collision. If this does not happen, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Crash ratings of vehicles these days are important things to note. They tell you what your chances are of being able to survive a collision. While it won’t tell you if your injuries will be reduced, the crashworthiness of a well built vehicle is something that is a distinct benefit for the vehicle’s occupants.

The term crashworthiness really refers to the total design of a vehicle and deals with things like the engine compartment, how the frame is put together and other integral structural items. Other items come into play when determining crashworthiness, and those relate to vehicle suspension, locks, air bags, seat belts, engine mounts, tires and other elements.

While many car makes do put their vehicles through some very rigorous testing to determine passenger safety, the question is how thorough are the tests. It’s not unheard of for consumers to see crash-test dummy runs that show what happens when a vehicle is subject to a rollover, gets T-boned, or rear ended. Instruments attached to the dummies will report on the type of impact and its force. It’s this information that lets engineers extrapolate the severity of potential injuries based on the force of the impact.

It’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that if a vehicle isn’t designed properly and causes harm to its occupants, that someone is going to sue. Indeed, this type of litigation – called crashworthiness litigation – has been around for a number of years. The ultimate goal of court cases like this is to hold vehicle makers responsible for poor and/or unsafe design that made injuries sustained in a crash worse than they should have been. For instance, we have all heard about crashes where someone was ejected through the window of the vehicle. In many cases, this is related to a seat belt breaking loose from its anchor, as opposed to someone who chose not to wear a belt. If the seat belt had held, as it was supposedly designed to do, injuries would have been far more minimal. There are many other examples that could be cited, but the idea is safety designs of a vehicle can determine the extent of injuries in a crash.

One of the most rollover-prone vehicles in the history of car manufacturing is sports utility vehicles, otherwise called by the acronym SUV. Their defects when rolled often amount to catastrophic injuries. The fact is the insurance industry states that in all accidents involving SUVs, except for the heaviest ones, the passengers have a higher death rate than in single vehicle crashes. The worst thing about these vehicles is their high center of gravity.

If we look to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration stats, we note that SUVs are in fatal crashes close to 37% of the time when compared to a 15% rollover rate for passenger cars. Put another way, the SUV’s crashworthiness rating is poor and this has resulted in a lot of lawsuits by survivors and relatives of loved ones who did not make it.

Know the crashworthiness rating of any vehicle you are thinking about owning. It may save your life later.