Are our cars made to be safe and crash-worthy? One-car wreck costs a man his life in Houston
By Rachel E. Montes posted in Crashworthiness: Auto products defect cases on Friday, December 10, 2010
Investigators learned the man was driving a tan Chevy pickup truck south in service road of the 9200 block of South Freeway around 11:30 p.m. when he drove onto an uneven grassy area, authorities said. The truck then rolled over, throwing the driver from the vehicle, where he died on the scene.
Car manufacturers have a duty to make safe, crashworthy cars. There are several layers of testing that a manufacturer conducts on its cars to determine whether they are safe, and crashworthy, including their propensity to roll in the event of uneven pavement, or evasive action taken by the driver. Surprisingly, some auto makers cut corners and skimp on safety measures to save money.
Crashworthiness cases involve claims that a design defect caused or contributed to the injuries of a vehicle’s occupants during a crash. To identify a crashworthiness claim, one must examine the interplay among the circumstances of the accident, the performance of the vehicle during the accident, and the injuries suffered. Such defects may cause or contribute to injuries, or may fail to provide suitable protection from injury in foreseeable accidents. Crashworthiness claims have taken many forms, both in Texas litigation and throughout state and federal courts.
Claims that a manufacturer should be held liable for failure to provide protection to vehicle occupants in the event of an automobile collision began to reach the courts in the early 1960s. Courts all over the United States struggled with this new theory and decisions were inconsistent. In the State of Texas, the Texas Supreme Court noted that the crashworthiness doctrine was merely a logical extension of long-articulated principles of Texas products liability law and that cases asserting the doctrine were to be charged as any design defect case:
There is no valid distinction in strict liability between a conscious design defect causing an accident and a conscious design defect causing an injury. By the same token, there is no rational basis for a difference in the manner of submission of the issues to be determined by the fact finder. We have not required a balancing of enumerated factors in jury submission by our previous writings, and, as stated earlier, we disapprove the ruling of the Court of Civil Appeals that such is required in a crashworthiness case.
Turner v. General Motors Corp., 584 S.W.2d 844, 848 (Tex. 1979).
Automotive Product cases, crash worthiness cases, are now litigated throughout the nation. Fifty years ago, this was a new concept and relatively unknown. Now, the people of the United States have been inundated with media discussing the Ford Pinto gas tanks, the Ford/Firestone debacle of the mid to late 1990s and various other high-profile vehicle defects.
If you or a loved one or family member have been affected by a defective automobile, we can help. We employ accident reconstruction experts immediatley to evalute the car, investigate the scene, and, most importantly, preserve the car as evidence. Insurance companies send their investigators to the scene to button up the evidence to portray the case in the light most favorable to them. You and your family need to do the same. Hire a crashworthiness lawyer immediatley to protect you and your family.