Crashworthiness—was the vehicle properly designed to protect the driver and passengers?

by Jim Orr

Immediately after a car collision, there is a “second collision,” often more deadly than the first. This “second collision” is the driver and passengers colliding against the interior of their vehicle. The ability of a vehicle to protect the occupants of a vehicle in a crash is called “crashworthiness.”

“Crashworthiness” refers broadly to numerous features— for example: seat belts, crumple zones and airbags—which are designed to minimize occupant injuries, prevent ejection from the vehicle, and reduce the risk of fire. During a crash, a vehicle’s occupants are subject to a number of forces that can result in injury, including rapid deceleration and rapid acceleration, depending on the direction of impact in the collision. A crashworthy vehicle design will distribute these injurious forces over as great a period of time and distance as possible, including by directing them to parts of the body that are more capable of withstanding them.

The cause of the “first collision”—a speeding driver, a driver not paying attention, a drunk driver, a driver running a red light, etc..— is generally considered irrelevant in crashworthiness cases. Instead, a crashworthiness case seeks to hold the vehicle manufacturer liable for injuries sustained in a car accident because of a defect that either caused or made worse the injuries suffered in the accident.

Car and truck manufacturers have a duty to build a car that is as safe as is reasonably possible under the present state of mechanical technology, vehicle design, and safety. Manufacturers are obligated to design vehicles so that they are safe for any reasonably foreseeable use. Obviously, it is reasonably foreseeable that any car or truck will be involved in a collision. Thus, a car manufacturer’s duty includes designing a vehicle that is reasonably safe when a collision occurs.

A crashworthiness case could involve aspects of the vehicle such as:

  • Air Bags
  • Child Seats
  • Auto Glass
  • Doors
  • Fires
  • Roof (“roof crush”)
  • Seat Belts
  • Rollovers
  • Tires

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car accident, it may well be that the injuries were caused or made worse because the vehicle was not sufficiently crashworthy. In order to determine whether you may have a case, you need to retain experienced, qualified legal counsel at the earliest opportunity.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have the experience and knowledge to pursue a crashworthiness claim against any of the major auto manufacturers. You can read about one of our recent lawsuit filings in this area here:

To speak with a lawyer about your case, contact Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our  free case evaluation form.