One of the most dangerous types of vehicle damage during a collision involves the roof collapsing into the passenger compartment.
This type of devastating occurrence, which has the potential to result in catastrophic injuries or even fatalities, is called a roof crush accident.
A Georgia jury has awarded $1.7 billion in punitive damages from Ford Motor Company to a pair of siblings whose parents were killed in a rollover crash after a tire blew out in their Ford F-250 pickup truck and the roof of their vehicle caved in.
Punitive Damages Warranted
The jury ruled that the couple, Voncile and Melvin Hill, aged 62 and 74, would have survived that rollover crash had the roof of their Ford truck been appropriately designed. Instead, the roof caved in and crumpled on impact, causing their fatal injuries. Their children, both in their 50s, sued Ford and Pep Boys, the auto shop that fitted the vehicle’s tires four years before the crash.
Brian Chase, managing partner and senior trial lawyer at the Bisnar Chase personal injury law firm commended the plaintiffs’ attorney James Butler Jr. for securing this record verdict for the family. Chase said this case is an important example of how many vehicles, including the one involved in this deadly rollover crash, have weak roofs that offer little to no protection to vehicle occupants.
“The fact that the jury awarded nearly $2 billion in punitive damages against Ford shows how powerful the evidence must have been in this case,” he said. “Our auto defect law firm has seen similar evidence in roof crush cases we have taken. We hope high-profile roof crush cases warn consumers about this problem so similar tragedies can be averted.”
Why Do Roof Crush Accidents Happen?
There are many reasons why vehicle roofs cave in on impact. But, they primarily occur because an automaker uses substandard materials to build the vehicles, fails to reinforce the structures properly, employs poor design, and has quality control issues during the manufacturing process.
Some vehicles are also designed to be taller and have a high center of gravity. This means they lack stability and have a greater propensity to roll over. Automakers have a legal obligation to design and manufacture safe vehicles for consumers.
The roof is a crucial component of the vehicle’s structure. This is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009 upgraded roof safety standards, saying that for vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or less, the roof must be able to withstand three times the vehicle’s weight. Federal vehicle safety standards have been set to prevent roof crush accidents after a vehicle rollover.
However, even with such standards and laws in place, vehicles on our roadways have weak roofs that can crumple on impact and immediately put lives in danger.
Suppose you have been injured in a roof crush accident or have lost a loved one in a horrific crash. In that case, you need an experienced auto defect lawyer with the skill, experience, knowledge, and resources to stand up to a large corporation and hold them accountable for failing to adhere to such safety standards.
Why Roof Crush Lawsuits Matter
If you have suffered injuries due to a roof crush accident, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. This is different from filing a claim against a negligent driver, where you will receive compensation through his or her auto insurance company.
Auto defect cases may involve an array of defendants, from the automaker to a dealer, repair shop, distributor, parts manufacturer, or other parties. There are many reasons why it is important to hold automakers accountable for dangerous and defective vehicles. First and foremost, automakers owe a duty of care to consumers.
When we buy vehicles, we place our trust in automakers to sell us vehicles that are safe for consumers. So, it is only fair for them to be held accountable when they fail.
Justice and Accountability
An auto defect lawsuit also highlights dangerous vehicles, as this particular roof crush case did. Many dangerous defects, such as weak roofs, go unnoticed until a tragedy occurs.
Such legal action can also force automakers to make their vehicles safer. A roof crush lawsuit can also result in significantly more compensation. In cases where a jury sees egregious negligence, they may also choose to award punitive damages, as this Georgia jury did in the case against Ford.
As Chase puts it: “Automakers make billions of dollars in profits. When they shortchange consumers by not spending per vehicle to fix a serious safety defect that could change someone’s life forever, they put their bottom line and profits before people. This is unacceptable.”