Other Potential Crashworthiness Cases
To be alert to the possibility of a crashworthiness
case other than one of the classic, more well-known
types of cases mentioned above, consider two fundamental
Are the injuries out of proportion to the severity
of the collision?
This is the key, and most difficult, question to answer
in the true "crashworthiness" case.
Look at the injuries to other people in the vehicles
involved. If several people suffer only minor injuries,
but one is catastrophically injured, there is an indication
that the severe injury is out of proportion to the
impact forces. Look at the vehicles, the nature of
the impact, and the estimated impact speeds, and ask
yourself whether these injuries seem reasonable under
In frontal and rear-end collisions, properly belted
occupants, in a non-defective vehicle, can survive
quite high speed impacts without permanent, catastrophic
injury. For frontal collisions, crash testing at a
35 mph "delta v" (a 35 mph impact into a
fixed barrier) routinely produces test injury data
showing survival without major injury. This is approximately
the same as a moving vehicle hitting a parked vehicle
at 70 mph. In the crash which killed Princess Diana,
at an estimated 100 mph into a concrete pillar, the
only occupant of the vehicle who was properly belted
survived. Even in head-on collisions between approaching
vehicles at highway speed, the impact may be survivable,
especially if either or both make substantial brake
application prior to impact. In rear-end collisions,
occupants can withstand even more severe collision
forces without serious injury if properly belted and
if all portions of the vehicle crashworthiness system
High speed side impacts are much more difficult to
survive, due to the lack of crush space inherent in
the shape of the vehicle. Impacts on the "near
side" (the side on which the occupant in question
is seated), involve only a few inches of crush space,
compared to several feet in a frontal collision. "Far
side" impacts, on the other hand, provide substantial
crush space, and a much greater opportunity of survival.
Rollovers are much more survivable than generally
believed. In the absence of roof crush (impairing the
integrity of the passenger compartment) or ejection,
rollovers are frequently survived with comparatively
little injury. In rollover injuries in which the occupant
remains in the vehicle, careful examination of the
vehicle will be required to determine the specific
cause of the injury.
Ejections from the vehicle should always be cause
for suspicion. The combination of seatbelts, doors
that remain closed, and proper window glass should
retain occupants in the vehicle. If the occupant is
ejected, an investigation should be made to determine
the cause of the ejection.
This "quick and dirty" comparison of the
injury to the collision events can never positively
determine that a crashworthiness case exists, but can
raise suspicion and justify calling the proper experts
to make an expert determination.
Did any vehicle-related failure contribute to the
This asks the "accident causation" question.
Tire failures are a classic example of failure of
a vehicle component causing a collision. Brake failure
or steering failure are other possibilities, to mention
only a few.
Tire failures, when they occur, are generally known
immediately. It is important to preserve the tire and
all parts of the tread which may be found.
When other mechanical defects are suspected, it is
frequently necessary to obtain expert assistance to
distinguish damage which may have caused the crash
from that resulting from the crash.
Perry & Haas does not offer any guarantee of
Past success in litigation does not guarantee success in any new or future
Our web site describes some of the cases that the attorneys of Perry & Haas have worked on in the past.
Our description of those cases is summary in nature.
You should be aware that the results obtained in each of the cases we have
worked on was dependent on the particular facts of each case. The results of
other cases will differ based on the different facts involved.