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Passenger Injuries in Defective Vehicles

Consumers have thousands of options when it comes to buying a motor vehicle: New or used? Compact, mid-sized or sport utility? Gas-guzzler or efficiency? Red or blue?

The weight given each factor depends on the individual needs and desires of the buyer. But one factor everyone should consider a top priority is safety. Unfortunately, not all vehicles provide equal protection, particularly when it comes to passengers.

At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, we know safety ratings doled out to vehicles can vary from year-to-year and depend heavily on the type of crash testing conducted.

Many manufacturers tout safety in marketing to families – particularly those with small children. However, not all live up to the expectations and promises, and some provide far less protection than purported. Certain types of vehicles can be outright dangerous for passengers, though automakers tend to downplay the risks.

In situations where some element of the vehicle made the driver or passenger more vulnerable to serious injury, it could be grounds for a product liability lawsuit against the car manufacturer or makers of certain car parts.

Crash Ratings and Auto Injuries – Half the Story

Many prospective car buyers compare crash ratings of vehicles to determine the relative safety of one model compared to another. The scores are based on testing conducted by government regulators and/or insurance industry representatives. Consumers can glean valuable information about the kind of protection a vehicle provides for those inside it.

However, the ratings don’t provide the full picture.

For example, many of those tests for front-end collision safety are conducted with vehicles that are the same size as the test model. But of course, that doesn’t reflect the world in which we live because our vehicles are different sizes. The reality is, those in smaller cars tend to be at greater risk. For example, researchers with the University of Buffalo, analyzing some 83,200 crashes, found occupants in a small car with a top-level crash safety rating were nearly 8 times more likely to die than occupants of an SUV with which the smaller car collided, despite the SUV’s relatively low crash safety rating.

Of course, no crash test score is a guarantee, but it should give consumers greater pause to consider all potential factors.

It’s worth noting SUVs and other large vehicles aren’t automatically safer, either. Prior to the mandated electronic stability control systems required since 2012, SUV occupants have historically been at far greater risk of a rollover. SUVs, trucks and minivans have a higher center of gravity, and are thus far more likely to roll in the event of a crash.

The NHTSA reported in 2003 that nearly 46 percent of fatal SUV crashes were the result of a rollover. Similar findings were uncovered in 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks. That’s compared to 16 percent of fatal passenger car accidents that involved rollover.

Another study, conducted in 2008 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reported several smaller, newer-model pickup trucks provided very little protection in the event of a side-impact crash. This is a major concern given that side-impact crashes (sometimes referred to as “T-Bone” collisions) are the second most common in fatalities, behind head-on collisions. Side-impact crashes are particularly dangerous when they involve passengers and small children.

When it comes to passenger injuries, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently rated the vehicles with the worst protection as:

  • Fiat 500
  • Kia Rio 5
  • Toyota Corolla L
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
  • Mercedes-Benz CL600

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports breaks down car ratings based on a number of values, including fuel economy, acceleration, visibility and safety performance. The advocate group rated the worst cars for shorter drivers as including:

  • Nissan Z
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Ford Fiesta ST
  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Jeep Rangler

Crash ratings constantly change, so it’s important for vehicle consumers to do their own research prior to purchase. Poorly rated cars may not be inherently unsafe (just as top-rated cars aren’t injury-proof), but manufacturers who realize certain aspects may contribute to serious injury of occupants and fail to address those issues or warn consumers could potentially face a product liability claim.

If you or a loved one has been injured in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.

Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation.

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