Car rollover accidents are some of the most dangerous motor vehicle accidents. They form a small portion of car accidents, but they account for more than a third of highway fatalities, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Nearly 300,000 rollover accidents happen each year. Learn more about auto rollover crashes from our car accident lawyers below.
What Is a Rollover Accident?
A rollover accident takes place when a vehicle tips over, ending up on its roof or side. The vehicle may have been pushed into tipping over or may have tipped over in response to a problem with the vehicle itself or something on the road. A very high percentage of such rollover accidents are single-vehicle accidents. An equally high percentage of them also feature the ejection of one or more occupants and a high death rate.
Causes of Rollover Accidents
A rollover accident is a common type of auto accident that occurs when a vehicle hits something like a curb or pothole that, in effect, causes it to lose its balance and tip over. Sometimes this happens when a vehicle turns too quickly or sharply, and its high center of gravity causes a tip-over during the turn. Occasionally, a vehicle will fall or slide down a sloped embankment and turn over during the process. Finally, a vehicle may roll over when another vehicle strikes it in a multi-vehicle accident.
The driver’s condition and the driver’s skill in operating the vehicle are also frequently factors in a rollover accident.
Among the problems that the driver can experience are:
- Aggressive driving – road rage and impatience can lead to unsafe driving, raising the risk of a rollover.
- Fatigue or drowsiness – being tired can be as dangerous as being under the influence.
- Driving under the influence – drugs, alcohol, medications
- Distracted driving – cell phones, GPS devices, music devices, eating, etc., all of these distract the driver and cause accidents, and distracted driving is one of the fastest-growing causes of road accidents in the United States.
- Inattention – looking away from the forward road, rubbernecking
- Oversteering and Understeering – oversteering means turning too fast for conditions and sliding off the pavement; the sideways movement can shift the center of gravity, making a rollover more likely. Understeering is when you turn too sharply, and due to road conditions or your speed, the vehicle does not turn; this too can result in a rollover if you were trying to avoid something that might cause one.
- Inexperienced drivers – they often do not know how to react to emergencies.
- Top-heavy cargo load – many vehicles like SUVs and pickups already have a high center of gravity; improper loading exacerbates the problem and increases the risk of a rollover.
- The speed a vehicle is traveling – in a large percentage of cases, the vehicle is doing more than 55 MPH.
- Collisions – a collision in which the car is hit on the side may also cause it to roll sideways.
- Use of rural roads – three out of four of these accidents, says the NHTSA, occur on country roads with a speed limit of 55 MPH or more.
- Four-wheel drive rollovers – generally occur on weekend nights and, when fatal, usually involve a male driver under 25 and alcohol and evidence that the driver was not wearing a seat belt.
- Equipment failure or design – sometimes the accident occurs because of how the vehicle is built, sometimes because of how it is maintained. In the former case, the manufacturer can be liable.
- Road conditions – bad weather, debris on the road, and construction can lead to rollovers. Sometimes, there is simply poor maintenance of the road, in which case the responsible government may be liable. In a case involving a government, using an experienced lawyer can enhance the possibility of success.
Most Dangerous Vehicles for Rollover Accidents
While you can have a rollover accident with any type of motor vehicle, the most common occur with vehicles having a high center of gravity like pickups or SUVs. When a rollover accident occurs, the highest proportion of fatalities occurs in SUV accidents (more than half), then pickups, vans, and passenger cars.
The problem with the pickups and SUVs are:
- These vehicles do more rural driving, which is where rollovers tend to happen
- They are narrower than passenger vehicles in terms of track width
- They have a higher center of gravity; in other words, they are top-heavy
However, the type of vehicle is not the only important factor in a rollover accident. Driver errors, road conditions, and equipment failure are also important underlying factors for rollover accidents.
Common Injuries in Rollover Accidents
The occupants of the rolled-over vehicle are often ejected from it, leading to very severe injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries – TBIs and concussions can lead to permanent life-altering injuries, including loss of cognitive, executive, and motor functions.
- Spinal cord injuries – spinal cord injuries can result in temporary or permanent paralysis occurring at the point of the injury and going down the body from there. Herniated discs and fractured vertebrae are common rollover injuries.
- Fractures and broken bones – Severe breaks take place when an accident ejects a victim from the vehicle. This may crush bones, leading to amputation.
- Internal injuries – internal bleeding can complicate treatment at the accident scene and can result in death if not identified and treated very quickly.
- Injuries to the torso and internal organs – the high forces involved in being ejected from a vehicle in a rollover can result in severe internal injuries and injuries to the torso. Broken ribs and injuries to organs like the kidneys and spleen are not uncommon.
- Back and neck injuries – while often a subject of humor, whiplash can lead to lifelong pain and suffering and severely limit the victim’s range of motion and ability to work; skull fractures can lead to serious problems with brain injuries.
- Lacerations, bruises, and soft tissue injuries – torn ligaments, strained muscles and tendons, and deep muscle bruises are common consequences of rollover accidents.
Avoiding Rollover Accidents
Although they are common, it is possible to take steps to avoid rollover car accidents. One of the easiest is to buy a newer vehicle with all of the latest safety systems.
Some other steps are:
- Wear your seat belt; half of rollover fatalities occur when victims have been ejected from the vehicle.
- Maintain your tires – keep them properly inflated and don’t allow them to become too bald.
- Load your vehicle carefully – balance the load and don’t overload or place heavy items on the roof. Keep the heaviest items on the floor.
- Watch your speed, especially in the country.
- Drive carefully – don’t get distracted or drive under the influence and respond appropriately to road and weather conditions.
What to Do After a Rollover Accident
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible – cooperate with any treatment plans and complete them.
- Take photos of the scene; make sure to retain any dashcam recordings you may have.
- Get insurance and contact information from any other parties to the accident.
- Get contact information from any potential witnesses.
- File a police report, even if it isn’t mandatory. If a death, injuries, or property damage above $1,000 took place, every driver involved must file a report.
- Contact your insurance company.
- Do not discuss your accident on Facebook or other social media, as anything you say can be used in settlement negotiations or a trial. Don’t apologize to anyone at the scene, and don’t admit fault.
- Contact an experienced rollover accident attorney.
What Can I Recover in a Rollover Accident Claim
As with all types of personal injury claims, your potential recovery depends almost entirely upon the injuries you suffered. Some of the more common damages for which you can seek recovery are:
Economic damages are those damages that result from out-of-pocket or direct economic losses to you. They are usually easily proven by documentary evidence like paid invoices and tax forms.
Some of the more common damages are:
- Medical expenses – These include hospital and doctor bills, drugs and other treatments, and all types of therapy. Note that NY does not permit your health insurer to seek reimbursement of any coverage it provides from your accident settlement.
- Lost Income – Wages, salaries, commissions, and so forth that you lose if your injuries prevent you from working can be recovered through your accident claim.
- Loss of Earning Capacity – If your accident has reduced your ability to earn a living in the future, the lost wages will be recoverable economic damages.
- Property Damage – The damages to your vehicle and any other property damaged in the accident are economic damages that you can recover.
Non-economic damages are more subjective, less easy to prove, and generally represent non-financial consequences of your injuries. In New York, you must have serious economic injuries to sue for non-economic damages.
Some of the more common non-economic damages are:
- Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering in New York includes all of the physical and mental pain that a victim may experience due to the accident. Generally, pain is considered physical, while suffering is mental.
- Emotional Injuries – Accidents can cause emotional injuries from things like scarring, loss of skills, and loss of the ability to enjoy the life activities you once enjoyed.
- Loss of Consortium – Although most commonly used to refer to the loss of marital relations, in many states, it may refer to familial relationships in general. In New York, the latter is covered by the loss of companionship.
- Potential Future Medical Expenses – Because these can be difficult to predict and can, in the case of some injuries, be catastrophically high, they are difficult to calculate and prove, thus falling under the non-economic damages category.
- Assistive Care – Future assistive care and rehabilitation are again difficult to estimate and prove and are therefore treated as non-economic damages.
- Lost Earning Capacity – Some injuries leave consequences that will adversely affect the victim’s ability to continue to earn the same living. Thus, a professional or executive who has suffered the loss of executive capacity may never hold those jobs again. The future losses in earnings are calculated as non-economic damages.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life – Some injuries will forever prevent you from engaging in activities you once enjoyed, such as athletics or games like chess. Damages for the loss of enjoyment of life reflect these injuries.
Claiming Under New York’s No-Fault System
You must first file a claim against your own insurance company, which will cover up to $50,000 of your economic damages. You can only recover non-economic damages from the other parties’ insurance companies, and you must have a “serious injury” to seek those damages. Please note, though, that New York does not put a cap on either type of damages.
New York also does not cap punitive damages, but these will only be available when the at-fault party’s conduct includes aggravation or conduct that outrages the conscience. Generally, such conduct must be willful, wanton, or reckless. Note that punitive damages are not intended to reward the victim. Rather, they are to punish the at-fault party and to deter others from engaging in the same types of misconduct in the future. Speaking with a exp
How Can a New York Car Accident Attorney Help You
As you’ve seen, recovering financially from your injuries in a rollover car accident in New York can be complicated. Figuring out who may have been responsible for the conditions that caused your rollover, and therefore for your injuries requires a skilled and knowledgeable attorney who understands and has experience with the complex workings of New York’s no-fault auto insurance laws.
When you are at physical and emotional low points, turn over negotiations with insurance companies, filing complex claim forms, and, most especially, handling any necessary litigation to a highly capable lawyer can speed your recovery and lighten your load.
Contact a New York car accident attorney today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. Let us handle the hard work and stress of dealing with your accident claim so you can focus on healing and getting your life back to normal.