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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
final questions
what to do now

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Other Potential Crashworthiness Cases

To be alert to the possibility of a crashworthiness case other than one of the classic, more well-known types of cases mentioned above, consider two fundamental issues:

Are the injuries out of proportion to the severity of the collision?

This is the key, and most difficult, question to answer in the true "crashworthiness" case.

Look at the injuries to other people in the vehicles involved. If several people suffer only minor injuries, but one is catastrophically injured, there is an indication that the severe injury is out of proportion to the impact forces. Look at the vehicles, the nature of the impact, and the estimated impact speeds, and ask yourself whether these injuries seem reasonable under the circumstances.

In frontal and rear-end collisions, properly belted occupants, in a non-defective vehicle, can survive quite high speed impacts without permanent, catastrophic injury. For frontal collisions, crash testing at a 35 mph "delta v" (a 35 mph impact into a fixed barrier) routinely produces test injury data showing survival without major injury. This is approximately the same as a moving vehicle hitting a parked vehicle at 70 mph. In the crash which killed Princess Diana, at an estimated 100 mph into a concrete pillar, the only occupant of the vehicle who was properly belted survived. Even in head-on collisions between approaching vehicles at highway speed, the impact may be survivable, especially if either or both make substantial brake application prior to impact. In rear-end collisions, occupants can withstand even more severe collision forces without serious injury if properly belted and if all portions of the vehicle crashworthiness system function properly.

High speed side impacts are much more difficult to survive, due to the lack of crush space inherent in the shape of the vehicle. Impacts on the "near side" (the side on which the occupant in question is seated), involve only a few inches of crush space, compared to several feet in a frontal collision. "Far side" impacts, on the other hand, provide substantial crush space, and a much greater opportunity of survival.

Rollovers are much more survivable than generally believed. In the absence of roof crush (impairing the integrity of the passenger compartment) or ejection, rollovers are frequently survived with comparatively little injury. In rollover injuries in which the occupant remains in the vehicle, careful examination of the vehicle will be required to determine the specific cause of the injury.

Ejections from the vehicle should always be cause for suspicion. The combination of seatbelts, doors that remain closed, and proper window glass should retain occupants in the vehicle. If the occupant is ejected, an investigation should be made to determine the cause of the ejection.

This "quick and dirty" comparison of the injury to the collision events can never positively determine that a crashworthiness case exists, but can raise suspicion and justify calling the proper experts to make an expert determination.

Did any vehicle-related failure contribute to the collision?

This asks the "accident causation" question.

Tire failures are a classic example of failure of a vehicle component causing a collision. Brake failure or steering failure are other possibilities, to mention only a few.

Tire failures, when they occur, are generally known immediately. It is important to preserve the tire and all parts of the tread which may be found.

When other mechanical defects are suspected, it is frequently necessary to obtain expert assistance to distinguish damage which may have caused the crash from that resulting from the crash.


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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.