Crashworthiness is a vehicle’s ability to protect occupants from injury during a crash. It is distinctly different from a vehicle’s likelihood to crash. A vehicle may be very unlikely to crash, but very likely to cause injuries should a crash occur.
Many design elements, both visible and hidden, contribute to a vehicle’s crashworthiness.
Properly functioning airbags help prevent injuries during a crash. They are meant to be used in conjunction with seat belts. Defective airbags may fail to deploy or may themselves cause injuries.
Defective airbags can cause eye and eye socket injuries, broken arms and wrists, neck injuries, whiplash, brain injury, and even decapitation.
There are many common seat belt design flaws which can cause injury or death. Latch failure, slack in the belt, and belts which apply force in a direction that causes secondary impact can cause worse injuries than the crash itself.
We don’t often think of the seats in cars as a safety feature, but the way a seat behaves can substantially affect crashworthiness. Features in seats which can fail during a crash or which may simply be designed in such a way that they contribute to or fail to protect from injuries include adjusters, backs, anchors, and headrests. A common seat malfunction is crumpling or collapse of seat backs during a rear end collision.
Roof crush is a common problem during rollover accidents. Inadequate, hollow roof pillars can give the appearance of higher roof crush resistance, misleading consumers.
Neck fractures, head, and back injuries are common roof crush injuries.
When door latches fail, doors can pop open during an accident causing occupants to be ejected from the vehicle. Full or even partial ejection, can cause serious injuries or death in crashes that would otherwise have caused minor injuries or no injuries at all.
Partial ejection can cause limbs to be severed and decapitation. Full ejection can cause secondary injuries due to being hit by another vehicle, impacting objects outside of the original vehicle, or being hit or crushed by the original vehicle.
Side Impact Protection
During a side impact crash, there is little vehicle structure standing between vehicle occupants and oncoming vehicles. Although there are some minimum government standards which all vehicles must meet, they offer little real protection. When functioning correctly, side impact airbags can help protect drivers and passengers.
Faulty fuel systems and design flaws in fuel systems can result in fires or explosions during a crash. A gas leak can cause a fuel fed fire. Poorly placed or poorly designed fuel tanks can explode on impact.
Vehicle manufacturers have a duty to address these and other safety issues. However, even after a design flaw is discovered, automakers leave the defect in place to cut costs. Consumers often confuse overall vehicle safety with crashworthiness, and believe that a vehicle is safer simply because it is not likely to crash.
Product liability lawsuits based on crashworthiness do not hold vehicle manufacturers responsible for the cause of the crash, but for the fact that a defect in the vehicle caused injuries to be worse than they would have been without the defect. The cause of the accident is therefore irrelevant.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an vehicle accident in Orlando or anywhere in Florida, please call (407) 712-7300 or email one of our experienced Florida accident attorneys. You may have a claim for negligence against the other driver, but if your injuries were exacerbated by the auto manufacturer’s negligence in failing to correct a known defect, you may have an additional claim against the auto manufacturer itself. Either way, we can help.