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(If you have been injured in an SUV rollover or a truck rollover, please contact us now. Delays can harm your case).

Sports utilities vehicles have a high center of gravity and are the most unstable vehicles on the road. Although designed to be driven off the road and roll, very few have rollbars. And to make matters worse, few meet the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration roof safety standards for automobiles [as weak as those standards are].

The chief hazard occurs when taking emergency action after steering in one direction and then being forced to rapidly correct in the opposite direction. The result is a rollover.

Rollover occurs because of the absence of a lower center of gravity and a wider track width, which allows automobiles to skid, spin and recover. But when taking a common evasive maneuver that car drivers safety complete every day, rapidly corrective action causes SUVs to trip and roll.

Rollovers occur with all sports utility vehicles but the condition is worse with the Japanese vehicles.

The engineering formula generally followed to determine a vehicle’s stability is T/2H. “T” is the track width [center of the right front tire to the center of the left front tire]. “H” is the center of gravity of the vehicle.

As the ratio approaches 1.0 the tendency for the vehicle to roll is increased. A ratio above 1.2 is considered safer.

The T/2H ratio for one Japanese SUV is approximately 1.05, when computed by the manufacturer with 80% gas, one driver, and no cargo. It is fair to assume that the test driver is 150# or less.

Obviously the vehicle is designed to seat more than one and with all seats filled the T/2H ration is very close to 1.0. Add a full tank of gas and some cargo, in back, plus a roof top carrier and the likelihood of a roll at freeway speeds is assured when a driver makes an abrupt corrective move.

All SUVs contain warnings, but the warning provided do not mention that every bit of weight added to the passenger compartment increases the likelihood of a roll.

One of the large defense engineering firms used by all the car manufacturers is Failure Analysis Associates, in Menlo Park. They report the following T/2H for these vehicles:

Ford E 150 1.19VW Vanagon bus 1.08 Ford Aerostar van 1.13Suburban 4×2 1.14 Chevy Astro van 1.15Jeep Cherokee 4×4 1.14 Izusu Trooper 1.08Ford Bronco 4×4 1.12 Ford 250 pickup 4×4 1.09GMC Jimmy 4×4 1.14 International Scout 1.08Ford Ranger pickup 1.14 Chevrolet Blazer 4×4 1.13Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 1.10 Manufacturers know this problem needs to be corrected and one, for example, substantially changed its designs in 1993, by stiffening the suspension, made the springs harder and the vehicle more roll resistant. But testing by manufacturers leaves much to be desired.

One Japanese manufacturer uses a team of 7 very experienced drivers. They claim to spend approximately 300 hours over a several months testing a model. Based on this testing the manufacturer claims its vehicles are stable, but the company does not save any of the actual test records, only its final report.

This company’s professional drivers push the SUV through a circular course with a radius of 60 meters [180 feet] at a speed of 75 kilometers [47 mph]. This manufacturer claims that its professional drivers are able to sustain a lateral acceleration of over .7Gs, without having the tires leave the ground or roll, but that is with only one driver and no cargo.

A .7G lateral load is clearly above the level at which most drivers can maintain control of the car and it goes beyond the range in which a driver can intentionally maneuver the vehicle. At .7G most drivers will panic. Based on this test, the manufacturer claims its SUV is stable because most non-professional drivers lose control of their vehicle when it pulls .5Gs.

The warning given with this truck is required by the U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: “This vehicle will handle and maneuver differently from an ordinary passenger car in driving conditions which may occur on streets and highways and off road. As with other vehicles of this type, if you make sharp turns or abrupt maneuvers, the vehicle may roll over or may go out of control and crash. You should read the on-pavement and off-road driving tips in the owner’s manual and wear your seat belts at all times.”

This warning obviously fails to warn that if a driver, inadvertently, makes a common safety movement, the truck will roll and the likelihood of a roll is greatly increased if the vehicle is loaded with suitcases, passengers, full tank of gas and a roof carrier. In addition, if a wider tire that is used, that increases the likelihood of a trip and roll.

Although all SUVs are likely to roll, few provide rollover protection in the form of reinforced roll bars which should be placed fore and aft: directly behind the front seats or alongside the windshield [“A” pillar] and at the rear hatch to prevent the roof collapse and “matchboxing” of the passenger compartment in a roll.

The challenge in SUV cases is to prove that a common evasive maneuver at highway speeds, which would never cause a car to roll, caused an SUV to roll and that the roof was not designed to protect the occupants in a rollover that was likely.

Once a rollover occurs, several steps should be taken immediately to preserve all the important evidence.

Professional photos, or any good quality photos, should be taken of the roadway immediately to preserve scrapes and tire markings.

Both distance and close-up photographs should be taken. Place measurement devices in the photograph. Tape measures, rulers and yardsticks are best, but in an emergency any common item that is readily available, from a matchbox to a tire iron, will do.

Use the parallax technique for taking photos. Firmly hold the camera standing with legs at shoulder width. Lean left and shoot. Next, lean right and shoot. By offsetting the view with a shift of three feet at a later date a measurement of the camera lens and calculate distances in the photograph. Shoot three rolls of film from both upstream, downstream and side views.

Preserve the vehicle. Buy the wreck immediately.

In every case of severe injuries that are common in rollovers, the family is devastated by traumatic brain injury, coma, spinal cord injuries and amputations. That is when a family friend must take charge before the wreckage is sold for scrap or purchased by the manufacturer.

Manufacturers retain special investigation firms that monitor news reports of rollovers and fires. In three fire cases, the manufacturer’s investigators photographed the wreckage before the family’s lawyer did. In two cases, even though the vehicle was being held in a lot under the orders of the owner not to move it, the vehicle disappeared.

Always buy the hulk. Later, it can be sold, usually for the purchase price. If you do not buy the wreckage, it will be lost. Negotiate with the carrier insuring the vehicle. Some will pay the replacement value under the policy, without deducting for the salvage value in exchange for the right to be reimbursed in the event of a successful product liability action against the manufacturer. Before moving the hulk, carefully photograph it close-up and at a distance. You cannot take too many photographs. Make sure the wrecking yard minimizes any further damage to the vehicle by carefully lifting it onto a trailer and remove it to a dry, locked garage.

Next, find the “right” lawyer who has had experience prosecuting major injury cases against automobile manufacturers and a record of results in the courtroom. Read “How to Hire the Right Lawyer” and begin networking to identify the legal team needed to evaluate and prosecute an SUV claim.

If you or a family member have been wrongfully injured call us at 1.888.777.1776 or use this form, delays can hurt your case, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.