Know Your Legal Rights After an SUV Rollover
Accident victims have legal recourse – but they need strong representation
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have grown in popularity over the years, and while they’re a robust and practical choice for many motorists, they also come with safety risks. One of the biggest potential hazards for SUV drivers and passengers is the risk of a vehicle rollover.
Rollovers can cause devastating, life-altering injuries, and people injured in them have legal recourse through the civil justice system. Here’s what motorists need to know about SUV rollovers and their legal options.
How SUV rollovers happen
Any vehicle can roll over under some circumstances, but the taller the vehicle and the higher the center of gravity, the easier it is to lose stability. SUVs are particularly vulnerable to rollovers because they are significantly taller than passenger cars but generally do not have a wider wheelbase to accommodate that taller load. (Trucks and vans are vulnerable to rollovers for the same reason.) SUVs with long travel off-road suspensions are especially susceptible because the increased suspension height raises the center of gravity even more.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of rollovers. A tripped rollover is caused by contact between the vehicle and an external object, such as a curb, a guardrail, an uneven road surface, or another vehicle. An untripped rollover occurs when the centripetal and centrifugal forces destabilize a vehicle as it rounds a curve. Most rollover accidents are tripped rollovers.
The main ways a rollover can occur include:
- Ramp rollover (tripped): one or more tires of the SUV travels up onto an elevated surface, causing the vehicle to become unstable and tip over to the other side. This can happen when the road surface itself is uneven (for instance, during repaving), or if the tires on one side hit a curb, the turned-down end of a guardrail, or a sufficiently tall object in the road.
- Lateral force rollover (untripped): when an SUV takes a curve or sharp turn at a high speed, or swerves to avoid a collision, centrifugal force pushes the top of the vehicle away from the center of the turn, while centripetal force pushes the tires inward, toward the center of the turn. If these forces are enough to overcome the force of gravity, the vehicle loses stability and rolls over.
- Side-slope rollovers (tripped): SUVs are prized for their ability to go off-road, but often, off-roading means navigating sloping surfaces. If one side of the SUV becomes significantly higher than the other because of a slope, the whole vehicle may roll over.
- Sideways skid rollovers (tripped): when an SUV loses traction in the rear tires and skids (fishtailing), usually on wet or icy pavement, the skid can cause the vehicle to hit a curb or other barrier, and the force of impact can cause the vehicle to lose stability and roll over.
Rollovers can happen on any road at any time, but they are most common in inclement weather and on sharp curves. Ramps and sharp turns may use signage to warn motorists of the increased risk of rollovers for trucks and SUVs.
Why rollovers are so dangerous
SUV rollovers are infamous for causing head and brain injuries if the roof collapses in toward the vehicle occupants. Damage to the spinal cord is also common, as the sudden change in speed and direction of motion can compress the spine and rupture discs. Other injuries common in rollover accidents include broken bones and internal injuries – when the car finally comes to a stop, the internal organs keep moving until they hit something.
Exiting the vehicle after a rollover can pose its own set of challenges as the vehicle often comes to a stop on its roof or side. This can put occupants in danger of further harm if there is a fire or explosion, or if the SUV is hit by another vehicle in a secondary collision.
Unfortunately, rollovers are often fatal. While they are a small percentage of all car accidents, they are disproportionately likely to cause fatal injuries. Those who survive a rollover may still have life-altering injuries or be permanently disabled. That’s why it is so important for injured people to get strong legal representation.
Legal recourse for people injured in SUV rollover wrecks
Rollovers are usually single-vehicle accidents, which makes the path to financial compensation tricky, especially for the driver. In a single-vehicle crash of any sort, the driver of the vehicle is presumed to be at fault, but that presumption can be overcome with sufficient evidence.
For example, if an SUV rolls over after swerving to avoid a collision with another vehicle that made a dangerous maneuver (such as changing lanes without signaling), the driver of the other vehicle could be held at fault for the accident. Likewise, if a rollover is tripped by an object that fell off another vehicle, that’s a result of negligence on the part of the other vehicle. If the other driver cannot be identified, the injured driver can file an uninsured motorist claim with their own insurance company.
If a passenger is injured in a rollover, they may be able to hold the driver of the vehicle responsible for their injuries. These are often tough and emotionally fraught situations, especially if the driver is dealing with their own injuries. However, an experienced attorney can usually navigate this situation by dealing directly with the insurance company, not the at-fault driver.
Even more importantly, though, vehicle manufacturers are often liable for SUV rollover injuries. Sometimes, a design or manufacturing defect in the vehicle caused the rollover itself. Even if the manufacturer isn’t responsible for the rollover per se, though, they may be held accountable for the injuries sustained if they failed to properly reinforce the roof or take other appropriate measures to protect occupants of their vehicles from the dangers of rollover accidents.
Contact attorney Coby L. Wooten to protect your legal rights
Getting full compensation for a serious injury is a complex, difficult process, requiring full investigation and a comprehensive legal strategy. When the injuries sustained require a lifetime of care, the stakes are incredibly high, and insurance companies for motorists and vehicle manufacturers fight hard to protect their interests. That’s why it’s so important for victims and their families to level the playing field with an experienced injury attorney.
If you were injured in an SUV rollover accident, it’s essential that you talk to an attorney about your legal options as soon as possible. We would be honored to meet with you and explain your options in a free consultation. There’s no cost, no obligation, and no pressure to hire us, just answers about your legal rights.