All vehicles are required to meet certain standards of “crashworthiness” prior to going to market. Crashworthiness refers to a vehicle’s ability to protect its occupants in the event of an accident or collision. The crashworthiness of a vehicle is impacted by a myriad of factors, ranging from airbags and seat belts to tires and engine parts. This means that even if a car accident was not caused by an issue with the vehicle’s function, if injuries were sustained or contributed to by a lack of “crashworthiness”, the injured party could be eligible to file a claim against the manufacturer.
Common features which may affect the crashworthiness of a vehicle include:
- Seat belts: Seat belts are designed to secure the passengers inside the vehicle in the event of a sudden stop or a collision. When a seat belt does not buckle properly or causes a severe injury on its own, this could be a sign that the seatbelt is defective. Similarly, if passengers are flung from the vehicle or found unbuckled after a crash when they were previously buckled in, this could indicate a defect in the seat belts.
- Fuel system: The fuel system in a vehicle’s engine is supposed to be designed with fire safety in mind, so that in the event of a crash or collision where the engine takes damage, the risk of a fire or explosion is minimized. The presence of a fire or explosion from the vehicle in an accident could indicate a defect within the fuel system.
- Airbags: Defective airbags are one of the biggest problems in accidents involving a defective auto part. If an airbag is not designed correctly, it could go off too early, too late, not remain inflated long enough, or could go off without warning. Additionally, airbags that go off with excessive force causing serious injuries of their own may also be considered defective.
- Center of gravity: Vehicles are supposed to be designed with the possibility of rollovers in mind. If a vehicle rolls during an accident or collision, this could indicate a defect in the vehicle’s design, particularly in regard to its center of gravity.
- Roof design: Similar to the above, vehicles that present the possibility of rolling during an accident, such as SUVs, are required to be designed with additional protection in the roof. The roof of a vehicle should be designed to protect the occupants against being crushed in the event of a rollover.
- Windshields/windows: The front and rear windshields in addition to the windows are required to be treated in such a way that it will not break into sharp and dangerous pieces in the event of an accident. Similarly, the windshields and windows should be strong enough to protect the occupants from flying debris. If a piece of debris makes it through one of these surfaces and/or breaks into sharp pieces, this could indicate a defect with the windshield/windows.
- Tires: Defective tires are another significant problem with defective vehicles; when a tire is not made correctly, it could affect the overall strength and structure of the tire. Not only can this cause accidents if the tire were to blow out, but it may provide insufficient stopping power in the event of an accident.
Crashworthiness is notoriously difficult to identify without the help of an expert.
Due to the technical nature of the manufacturing process and industry standards for crashworthiness, it typically takes an experienced car accident attorney to identify and prove the defect. If you suspect that your vehicle’s lack of crashworthiness caused or contributed to the injuries of your or your passengers, you may be eligible to file a claim against the vehicle’s designer and/or manufacturer. For a free consultation to discuss your case or for help filing a claim, reach out to a car accident attorney in your area.