A teenager from Polk County died of injuries he sustained in a single-car rollover accident in the days before. The 18-year-old was driving his pickup truck around 4:30 a.m. in Auburndale when, for unexplained reasons, he lost control of the vehicle. The truck swerved into an oncoming traffic lane, he over-corrected, and then the truck rolled off the roadway until it struck a fence. The young man was ejected from the vehicle as it rolled over and suffered severe, traumatic injuries.
Rollover accidents are one of the most violent types of accidents. As explained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while only around 2 percent of motor vehicle crashes involve a rollover, this type of accident accounts for nearly 35 percent of passenger vehicle traffic-related fatalities. Around 10,000 people die each year as a result of rollover accidents. If you’ve been injured in a rollover accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, an experienced car accident attorney can explain to you the legal options you have for obtaining compensation for your accident-related expenses.
9 Causes of Rollover Accidents?
About 85 percent of all rollover fatalities are the result of single-vehicle crashes. That said, rollovers are possible in both single-car crashes as well as those involving two or more vehicles. The reasons why a rollover may occur include:
- The type of vehicle involved in the accident: While any vehicle can experience a rollover, those with a higher center of gravity—including pickup trucks, SUVs, vans, and commercial tractor-trailers—are more prone to a rollover event.
- Speed: Excessive speeding is a factor in about 40 percent of all fatal rollover crashes. Rollovers are more likely to occur on roadways that have a higher posted speed limit.
- Alcohol impairment: Alcohol is also a common feature in rollover accidents, with nearly half of all rollovers involving an impaired driver. Impairment by alcohol or drugs results in a decline in the skills needed to operate a motor vehicle safely.
- Location: Rollovers are more likely to occur on rural roads that lack a divider between directional traffic lanes and higher posted speed limits.
- Distraction: Distracted driving increases your risk for any type of accident, including a rollover.
- A tire blowout: Blown tires cause a dangerous loss of control, particularly when they occur at high speeds. This loss of control can result in the car hitting something and rolling over.
- Overcorrection: It is not unusual for someone to over-correct when they’re attempting to avoid a collision. Over-correction involves turning the steering wheel too sharply and—particularly in vehicles with a high center of gravity—this may also result in a rollover.
- Overloading the vehicle: Overloading a vehicle is not only hard on the tires, thus increasing the chance of a rollover, but also may cause the vehicle to be less stable. This is particularly true for vehicles with a high center of gravity in which too much has been loaded onto the top of the vehicle.
- Taking a corner or curve too fast: Cars featuring a high center of gravity are more prone to rolling over or tipping over if the driver attempts corners or sharp curves while going too fast.
2 Types of Rollover Accidents – Tripped and Untripped:
- Tripped rollovers are those in which the car “rips over something, such as an accident where the tires leave the roadway and slide sideways on soft soil or the vehicle collides with an object such as a tree, fence, or guardrail. 95 percent of rollover accidents are tripped.
- Untripped rollovers are those involving high-speed collision avoidance maneuvers. Generally, this type of rollover happens to top-heavy vehicles.
Common Injuries From Rollover Accidents
Because rollovers are such a violent sort of collision, injuries are often catastrophic. Those who survive the initial crash may need assistance for the rest of their lives. Some of the injuries experienced in rollovers include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: This type of injury may be caused by the vehicle’s occupant being ejected and/ or the head striking a window or other object, either inside or outside of the car. Additionally, brain injuries can be caused by the brain being jolted within the skull. The symptoms of the brain injury may subside over time, or may result in severe impacts to every part of the injured individual’s life.
- Spinal injuries: Spinal injuries in the neck or back may result in paralysis of the legs and pelvis (paraplegia) or paralysis of the legs, pelvis, torso, shoulders, and arms (quadriplegia or tetraplegia). This type of accident can also cause injury to the discs and soft tissues of the neck and back, which may require surgery and involve chronic pain.
- Broken bones: During a rollover, even a person wearing his or her seat belt is likely to be tossed and twisted within the vehicle. Those who are ejected will collide with an object or the roadway. All of this can lead to broken arms, legs, ribs, facial bones, and other bones in the body.
- Deep lacerations: Broken glass and jagged metal are frequent features of rollover accidents and can cause nasty cuts that may result in permanent scarring or disfigurement.
- Crush injuries: Often during a rollover accident, the roof of the vehicle buckles or caves in. This may result in severe injuries, including crush injuries to limbs or to the abdomen.
- Internal injuries: While the body’s organs are tucked within the relative protection of skin and bones, a rollover accident can result in internal injuries, such as damage from broken ribs, penetrating injuries from parts of the vehicle, or—in the case of ejection—from objects with which the body might collide.
6 Ways You Can Prevent a Rollover?
Not all rollovers are preventable, but Consumer Reports has some tips to reduce your risk of being seriously injured or killed in a rollover, including:
- Wear your seat belts. While everyone seems to know “someone” who managed to avoid a fatal accident while not wearing a seat belt, statistics indicate that your chance of surviving a rollover is greatly improved if you’re strapped in. As the majority of car accidents occur within a few miles of your home, it is important to wear your seat belt, not only for long road trips but for short ones as well.
- When car shopping, remember that newer is better. Newer model vehicles often come with improved safety features, including electronic stability control and side curtain airbags. Both of these features were designed to reduce the risk to people involved in rollover accidents.
- Check your tires. Worn tires increase your risk of a tire blowout that may lead to a loss of vehicle control and a rollover.
- Don’t speed. Four out of every ten rollovers involve excessive speed. Speeding makes it harder for you to control your vehicle, increasing the likelihood of having a rollover accident.
- Don’t overload your vehicle, as this puts a strain on the tires as well as the vehicle’s balance. This is especially true for taller vehicles, such as SUVs, vans, and trucks.
- Use care on rural roads. Three-quarters of rollover accidents take place on roads that don’t feature a center divider between directional traffic lanes and have a higher posted speed limit.
Liability in Rollover Accidents
Many rollover accidents are single-car accidents caused by human error; however, this is not always the case. Consider, for example, a February 2019 accident in Sarasota in which a 24-year-old man driving a minivan crashed into an Audi driven by a 19-year-old college student.
The Audi driver was attempting to avoid a collision when the minivan struck his car, causing it to catapult through the air and roll several times. The teen was partially ejected and suffered severe head trauma in the accident, which was captured on a surveillance camera from a nearby business. The driver of the minivan allegedly fled the scene of the accident but was arrested days later due to the camera footage. He faced two felony charges for turning into traffic and leaving the scene of an accident.
In another instance, a fiery, multi-car crash near Gainesville resulted in the death of five children and two semi-truck drivers. The children were on a church van from Louisiana that was traveling to Disney World when a semi-driver allegedly veered left and plowed into a car with his tractor-trailer. Both vehicles went out of control and crossed the center divider into oncoming traffic. The semi then struck the van carrying the children, causing it to roll several times and eject some of the children on board. The truck and the van both struck another semi-truck, causing it to burst into flames.
Months later, it was revealed that the driver of the semi-truck that caused the crash was suffering from a sudden medical emergency that caused him to lose consciousness. It was also revealed, though, that the driver had numerous previous traffic infractions, including speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, not carrying proof of insurance, and driving an overloaded vehicle. As of late July 2019, eight lawsuits were filed against the company that employed the driver by survivors and family members of the victims.
As with any type of car accident, liability for damages depends on the facts of the case and may lie with the driver of any vehicle involved, as well as other parties, such as a trucking company in the case of an accident involving a commercial truck. To prove liability, an injured plaintiff must show that the at-fault party:
- Owed a duty of care to the victims. This duty of care might have been to operate one’s vehicle in a safe and lawful manner, or it may involve the hiring practices of a trucking company or even the manufacturing of a part used on one of the vehicles.
- There was a breach in this duty of care. This must be the reason that the accident took place, such as a driver making an improper turn into traffic.
- The accident must have caused the victim’s injuries.
If You Were Injured in a Rollover Accident…
If you were injured in a rollover accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you are likely in need of compensation to help pay for the medical expenses you face. In Florida, the first resource is often the personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy that vehicle owners are required to purchase before registering their vehicles. PIP policies cover a portion of medical expenses and lost wages due to injury up to the limit of the policy.
In cases where the victim is not from Florida and doesn’t have a PIP policy to turn to, the expenses exceed the PIP policy limits, or the injuries are deemed serious, Florida law permits accident victims to seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit, which he or she must file within four years of the date of the crash. Some of the damages that one can claim in a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses for injuries caused by the accident
- Lost wages from work, including time from work to attend medical appointments or therapy related to the injuries
- The cost of repairing or replacing one’s car
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
- Loss of consortium, which is the victim’s family members’ loss of the relationship they once had with the victim due to the severity of his or her injuries
- Emotional distress, such as anxiety or depression related to the accident and injuries suffered
- The cost of hiring someone to complete household tasks that the victim can no longer complete because of the injuries
Sometimes, more than one individual or entity is responsible for causing the accident that resulted in injuries. Florida allows lawsuits to be filed against anyone whose liability in the accident is at least 10 percent.
If a rollover accident injured you, call a car accident lawyer for more information about how you can recover the compensation you need to pay for your medical and other expenses.