In early May of this year, a roll-over accident on I-495 in Milford, Massachusetts, resulted in the driver and a female passenger sustaining serious injuries. Both were rushed to Milford Regional Medical. A second passenger was treated for minor injuries and released. The rollover caused the seriously injured passenger to be ejected from the car but it was unclear if she or any of the passengers were wearing seat belts. There were no other vehicles involved, and police reports did not indicate how or why the driver lost control or if alcohol or drugs were involved.
Severity of Rollover Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rollover accidents are only second to front-end collisions in terms of severity. In 2010, they accounted for 34% of all fatal traffic accidents or about 10,000 highway deaths annually. Light passenger vehicles and Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are susceptible to rollovers, which can result in an unrestrained passenger being ejected or the occupants injured by a collapsing roof.
The NHTSA reports that 95% of rollover accidents are caused by “tripping.” This occurs when a car’s tires hits a bump, curb or soft ground that causes the vehicle to abruptly halt its forward motion and to severely move sidewise or forward, tripping it over. A vehicle’s design can make it vulnerable to this phenomenon such as in mini-vans or SUVs, which have a high center of gravity. If traveling at a high rate of speed around a poorly designed curve and/or contacting an object in the roadway or a guardrail, or encountering soft soil, your car could suddenly flip on its side. Other factors that can trip a vehicle are icy roads and uneven road surfaces.
If you were injured in a single car roll-over accident, your car accident lawyer should not only investigate the possible negligent conduct and sobriety of the driver if you were a passenger, but the design of the roadway where the accident occurred. Another factor could be the condition of the tires, which might be defective. A design defect in the vehicle could also have been a contributing factor.
If the design or condition of the roadway is suspected, then proper notice needs to be given to the public entity responsible for its maintenance and design. Under Massachusetts law, a public entity needs to be given written notice of the accident along with other required information within 6-months of the accident, or you could lose your right to sue and be compensated by that entity, which could be the city, county or state. The usual time for filing a lawsuit for negligence or product liability is 2-years.
Seatbelts and Rollover Accidents
The high probability that you could be seriously injured in a rollover accident is heightened even more if you were not wearing a seat belt. A sobering statistic is that you are 30 times more likely to be ejected in a rollover accident if unrestrained. And 3 of every 4 persons who are ejected from a vehicle suffer fatal injuries.
Compounding this statistic is that Massachusetts drivers are among the worst in the nation for buckling up. The national average among the states in seat belt usage hovers around 90%. We are currently at 81%, placing us at 45th. New Hampshire is number 50 with a 70% usage rate. A prime factor for our refusal to buckle up en masse is that a seat belt violation is still a secondary offense in Massachusetts, meaning that a police officer cannot pull you over for not wearing a seat belt unless you violated some other traffic offense, such as speeding or making an unsafe lane change. Also, the fine for the violation is only $25 in most jurisdictions.
Injuries in Rollover Accidents
Injuries in a rollover can be catastrophic if not fatal. You can expect to violently impact the sides of the vehicle, objects inside the car, and with broken glass or torn metal that can pierce you. The head and neck are most vulnerable followed by your abdomen and lower limbs.
Traumatic brain and spinal cord injury can easily occur, whether you are ejected or not. This can lead to permanent disabilities affecting speech, vision, memory, mobility, emotional changes, amputation of limbs, permanent disfigurement, and internal injuries.
Damages in a Rollover Accident
Your damages in a rollover accident can be substantial, which is why your car accident lawyer needs to be promptly retained following the accident. Your lawyer needs to immediately investigate the causes of the accident and to retain experts in accident reconstruction and product liability to retrieve and examine evidence that can be quickly covered up or lost in the days or weeks after the accident.
Your damages can include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
In a wrongful death case, the administrator for the decedent’s estate may bring a claim against the at-fault driver on behalf of the decedent’s immediate family members. Damages in wrongful death claims typically include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Lost earnings the decedent would have earned over his/her lifetime
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, counsel and guidance
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or willful and wanton
Retain a Car Accident Lawyer from Burns and Jain
If you or a loved one sustained injuries or was killed in a rollover accident, you will need the skill and knowledge of a veteran car accident lawyer from the law office of Burns and Jain. Call us at (617) 227-7423 to schedule a free consultation about your injury claim.