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Crashworthiness - A Primer

Crashworthiness Dangers

when to consider
what is a crashworthiness case
how to recognize
well known defects
other potential cases
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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, injurious events.

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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Perry & Haas does not offer any guarantee of case results.
Past success in litigation does not guarantee success in any new or future lawsuit.
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.