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Vehicle Rollover Accidents

Vehicle Rollover Accidents

Everything is bigger in Texas—including our vehicles.

Driving around the state, it’s clear that Texans are fond of trucks and SUVs. While SUVs provide more size, space, and utility than cars, they also are more prone to rolling over in an accident. Manufacturers have made efforts to improve SUV rollover safety, but due to a top-heavier design, a higher rollover risk is a reality for SUV owners.

Rollover crashes can cause serious injuries that may require help from a car accident lawyer.

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Nearly Half of Texas Vehicles are SUVs

Combining features of a truck, minivan, and car, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have gone from an alternative family vehicle to the most popular vehicle type in America. More than half of the new vehicles sold in the U.S. are now SUVs, which represent the country’s fastest-growing segment.

Texans are known truck appreciators, but our love for the SUV can’t be overlooked. In Texas, SUVs are the most popular vehicle type. They make up more than 40% of vehicles, versus 37% pickup trucks, 19% cars, and 2% minivans.

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Vehicle Rollover Risks

SUVs are more prone to rollovers than regular passenger cars because of how they’re built.

The key factor in SUV rollovers is the center of gravity. SUVs are taller than the average car but have a wheelbase that is not much wider than a car’s. This gives SUVs a higher center of gravity. During a sudden change of direction, sideway forces can cause a top-heavy SUV to lose balance and tip or roll.

Manufacturers have taken measures to improve SUV rollover safety, such as adding electronic stability systems and using unibody (i.e., car-based instead of truck-based) construction. Stronger roofs can also reduce the harm of a rollover crash. But the laws of physics dictate that SUV rollover risks can’t be eliminated entirely.

A National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) study found that around 2% of passenger cars involved in crashes experienced rollovers. For SUVs, 6% of accidents resulted in a rollover—a higher percentage than pickup trucks and vans.

Anatomy of a Rollover Crash

Rollovers are violent crashes that result in the vehicle rotating at least ninety degrees, either on its side or end over end, subjecting occupants to forces and impacts that can severely injure or kill them.

According to a study published in the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, there are four main mechanisms of injury involved in rollovers:

  • Roof intrusion—structural elements of the roof penetrate the body or crush occupants.
  • Projection—as the vehicle is rolling over occupants impact parts of the interior.
  • Complete ejection—passenger is ejected from the vehicle.
  • Partial ejection—parts of the passenger’s body contact the outside surface.

NHTSA data reveal the following trends in rollover accidents:

  • Most rollover crashes are single vehicle crashes.
  • Rollover crashes are more likely to result in fatalities than other crashes.
  • The typical profile of a driver that rolls their vehicle is: male, under 40 years old, driving on a two-way road that lacks a dividing barrier.
  • Speed is a key factor in fatal rollovers, with most occurring on roads where the speed limit is 55 mph or greater.

Around half of single vehicle rollovers are preceded by an attempt to avoid crashing by a steering maneuver, compared to one-third of multi-vehicle rollover crashes where this occurs.

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Serious Injuries Are Common with Rollover Accidents

Rollover crashes are extremely violent. The passengers inside of an SUV that tips and rolls are subject to powerful forces. Unbelted occupants can be ejected from the vehicle when it’s rolling and hit the pavement or be run over. Belted occupants may strike the inside of the vehicle multiple times as it impacts the ground.

Rollover crashes are far more likely than other accidents to result in serious injuries, including fatal injuries. IIHS crash data shows that rollover crashes comprised 29% of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2021. Twenty-seven percent of rollover fatalities occurred in SUVs.

SUV Rollover Crash Injuries

The odds of suffering a serious injury are 35-40 percent higher in a rollover crash than in other types of motor vehicle accidents.

SUV rollover injury severity is linked to the number of quarter-turns that a rolling vehicle makes, the distance it travels when rolling, and vehicle speed at the time of the crash.

Rollover crash injuries most commonly occur to the:

  • Head
  • Brain
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Thorax
  • Abdomen
  • Spine
  • Extremities
  • Shoulder and back

Around half of all injuries from rollover crashes occur to the head and neck, while 10% are spine injuries.

Generally, the more times a vehicle rolls over, the more likely occupants are to suffer injuries.

  • Research has shown that two or more complete rolls dramatically increases injury risk.
  • Rollovers with a high number of quarter-turns are more likely to cause multiple injuries.
  • Three or more rolls and end over end rollovers are particularly dangerous.

Rollover injury type and severity can vary depending on the crash configuration and whether an occupant is wearing their seatbelt. Restrained occupants in rollover crashes tend to suffer more neck injuries. Unrestrained occupants in rollover crashes experience more head injuries on average. Roof crushing injuries correlate with a greater number of brain injuries.

An increase in rollover severity is also linked to higher pre-crash speed. Additional factors that can affect rollover crash injury severity are:

  • Rural roads
  • Blacktop roads
  • Careless and inattentive driving
  • Aggressive driving
  • Up and down terrain

Rollovers Cause a Disproportionate Number of Fatalities

Rollover crashes are responsible for approximately 10,000 fatalities and 30,000 serious injuries each year in the United States. They’re more common with high ride vehicles such as SUVs, trucks, and vans.

Rollover crashes account for only 3 percent of vehicle crashes but lead to approximately one-third of all vehicle occupant deaths, NHTSA data shows.

While your chances of being in a rollover crash are small, if you are in an SUV rollover, you have almost a zero chance of walking away unharmed. Your odds of being fairly compensated for a rollover crash increase when you hire Jim Adler & Associates.

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Causes of Vehicle Rollover Crashes

Consumer Reports notes that speed is associated with rollover accidents, as are sideway forces that occur when a vehicle goes through a corner and its center of gravity shifts to one side and throws off its balance. Speed and curves can be a deadly combination, especially when a driver takes a turn too sharply and then overcorrects the other way, causing a pendulum effect that results in larger and larger swings—until the driver completely loses control.

Many rollovers are single-vehicle “trip-over” accidents. Tripping accidents occur, for example, when an SUV swerves into a curb or pothole.

However, according to an NHTSA study, nearly 15% of rollover accidents are caused by a collision with another vehicle. Side impact and frontal impact crashes are common SUV rollover scenarios.

Other contributors to rollover accidents include:

  • Tires: Tires are a critical factor in grip, which can affect how prone an SUV is to rollover. Tires should be inflated to manufacturer-recommended levels. When replacing truck and SUV tires, using tires that are the same or nearly the same as the factory-equipped tires can reduce rollover risk.
  • Load: Vehicles have load ratings for a reason. Overloading a vehicle decreases stability and can increase rollover odds. Also avoid placing heavy loads on the roof. Heavy cargo should be placed low on the floor and close to the vehicle’s center.
  • Driving on country roads: NHTSA data indicates that around three-quarters of fatal rollover accidents happen on rural roadways with 55+ mph speed limits.

Crash data from the Texas Department of Transportation confirms this last datapoint. In Texas in 2022, approximately 11,000 crashes were coded as “overturned.” Approximately 3,700 of these overturn crashes occurred in urban areas, while around 7,200 were rural overturn crashes.

Statewide, overturn (i.e., rollover) crashes resulted in 381 fatalities in Texas in 2022, along with more than 1,600 serious injuries. Roughly 10% of Texas motor vehicle fatalities and 10% of serious car crash injuries are caused by rollover accidents.

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Rollover Accidents and Legal Claims

Statistically, a rollover accident is more likely to be a single vehicle accident than a multi-vehicle accident. Single vehicle accidents are typically the fault of the driver, but this isn’t always the case. Rollover accidents can also be caused by vehicle defects, roadway conditions like potholes, ice, and snow, or swerving to avoid another vehicle, an animal, or debris on the roadway.

If you are in a single vehicle rollover accident, you may be able to make a claim with your own comprehensive, collision, or medical payments insurance. But your insurer might dispute the claim and delay, deny, or underpay it.

And if another vehicle or party was involved—for instance, you swerved to avoid a vehicle, object, or domestic animal on the road—they might be financially responsible for your property damage, medical bills, lost work time, and other losses. But proving somebody else was at fault can be challenging. You’ll need evidence to support your claim in full. You might also have to counter claims that you were at fault for the accident.

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Don’t Roll Over to the Insurance Company. Get The Texas Hammer®.

Rollover crashes are uniquely dangerous. They’re more likely to result in fatalities and injuries to occupants and can involve very high financial losses. One study estimates that about one-third of annual U.S. injury costs from motor vehicle accidents involve costs from rollover crashes.

The most serious accident cases require the most serious injury lawyers. There are many personal injury attorneys in Texas, but there’s only one Texas Hammer. We’ve helped thousands of injured Texans from our offices in Dallas, Houston, Channelview, and San Antonio.

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