What is a Crashworthiness Case?
Strictly defined, crashworthiness is the ability of
a vehicle to protect its occupants in the event of
a crash. Since 1965, Federal statutes have required
that automobile design include crashworthiness as one
its goals. The case law recognizes that automobile
crashes are foreseeable, and that the automobile should
be designed to provide a reasonable degree of protection
to occupants involved in those foreseeable, but undesirable,
Yet, in common terms, "crashworthiness" is
often used to refer to a wide range of automotive defects.
Many automotive defect cases involve, not "crashworthiness," but "crash
causation." A Firestone tire that detreads causing
a Ford Explorer to rollover is, strictly speaking,
a "crash causation" case, rather than a "crashworthiness" case.
But if the rollover also involves a roof crush or restraint
failure, those are true "crashworthiness" issues.
From the standpoint of the lawyer and the injured
person, this may be a distinction without a difference.
The distinction is usually made because automobile
manufacturers seem more willing to recognize that vehicles
should include proper crash avoidance features - such
as steering, brakes, tires, and lights - but resist
admitting the vehicle should be crashworthy. And, in
some cases, the distinction may make some legal difference.
But, from the standpoint of the lawyer assessing a
potential case, or talking to potential jurors, this
distinction is frequently needless hairsplitting.
The important point is that automobiles, and their
accessories and components, such as tires, must be "reasonably
safe," taking into account the foreseeable dangers
and alternative designs which are available. A product
which is "unreasonably dangerous" contains
a defect for which the manufacturer is liable, regardless
of whether the danger involves a failure which causes
a collision, or which fails to protect from collision
forces, or some other injury mechanism.
In common legal parlance, all types of automotive
defects which cause injury are frequently lumped together
and referred to as "crashworthiness" defects.
While this may not be technically correct in the historical
or academic sense, it probably has the useful, practical
effect of conveying a common meaning - defects which
cause injuries to the users of automobiles.
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Past success in litigation does not guarantee success in any new or future
Our web site describes some of the cases that the attorneys of Perry & Haas have worked on in the past.
Our description of those cases is summary in nature.
You should be aware that the results obtained in each of the cases we have
worked on was dependent on the particular facts of each case. The results of
other cases will differ based on the different facts involved.