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Using a Test Vehicle to Recreate a Rollover Accident

In order to successfully sue the negligent party after you've been injured or a loved one has died in a rollover accident, you must be able to adequately demonstrate how the accident actually happened and who was to blame for it.

In some cases, particularly when the liability of an automaker or a tire manufacturer is concerned, it may be necessary to recreate the accident using a vehicle like the one in the original accident. After more than two decades litigating wrongful death and personal injury cases involving rollover accidents in Texas, our attorneys have learned just how helpful such a recreation can be to a successful case, and we wanted to use this article to explain why this is the case.

Why it's Sometimes Necessary to Intentionally Roll Over a Car or Truck

Recreating an accident using the actual conditions of the original accident can be effective in establishing either how the specific negligence in this particular case caused this particular accident, or how a systematic failure in a car or tire can cause a rash of rollover accidents in several of vehicles.

To explain how an accident recreation can show the negligence in a specific rollover accident, let's consider a hypothetical example in which an 18-wheeler rolled over after its cargo, which had not been sufficiently secured before departure, became dislodged during transport. As the truck attempted to make a right turn, the cargo shifted from the right to the left, toppling the trailer onto the car next to it, and killing the inhabitants of the car. The company that loaded the cargo, however, claims that the truck only rolled over due to a flaw in the trailer's design. If you take the same model of truck and attempt to make the same turn at the same speed, but with the cargo properly secured, you can prove to a jury that the trailer only rolled over due to the inadequately stored cargo. If you wanted to take the expense, you could run the same test but with the cargo loose, and then watch as the truck rolls over again (just without a car driving next to it and waiting to get crushed).

As far as a flaw in a vehicle's or tire's design that may cause a rollover problem, this can also be tested by recreating accidents with similar conditions but minor changes. For example, just after the turn of the century, Ford began to receive reports that its Explorer Sports Utility Vehicles were rolling over at extraordinarily high rates. While Ford blamed the vehicle's Firestone Wilderness ATX tires, Firestone pointed the finger at Ford for recommending that the tires be inflated at 26 psi instead of 35 psi as the tire maker had suggested. Eventually, Ford recalled the vehicles and replaced the Wilderness tires. However, the rollovers continued, making it increasingly appear as if there was something wrong with the vehicle's design.

Thus, Ford, the National Transportation Safety Board, and personal injury and wrongful death lawyers who had cases pending against Ford began running tests on Ford Explorers to figure out why they roll over. These tests revealed that by expanding the track (lateral wheelbase) of the Explorer by just an inch on either side, the vehicle's propensity to roll over easily could be reduced. When you couple these tests with recommendations by Ford engineers in 1990 that the vehicle needed to be re-designed, then the plaintiffs' attorneys were able to allege systemic negligence by Ford. In the ensuing decade, Ford has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in personal injury and wrongful death penalties and settlements as a result of Explorer rollovers.

How Recreations Work

In many cases, your attorney may not have to conduct an actual recreation of the rollover because the NTSB or another lawyer has already conducted similar tests that could apply. For instance, if you were driving a 2001 Ford Explorer that rolled over, your attorney could just use the findings of the previous testing on the vehicles. In other cases, your lawyer may have to actually run the recreation independently to prove the negligence in a specific rollover accident. In that case, your attorney will consult with an accident recreation specialist who will make sure that the recreation conforms to the conditions of the original rollover while remaining as safe as possible for those involved. While this can be expensive, it can pay off once the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff.

If you've been injured or someone you love has been killed in a rollover accident, you will need the help of an experienced Texas lawyer and a recreation expert. These are not matters that novices should attempt to tackle on their own - both for the sake of accuracy and safety. In order to be believable, an accident recreation must be stamped with the heir of authority provided by a recreation specialist with impressive degrees and significant real world experience investigating rollover accidents. The defense will attempt to question the validity of the recreation, so this expert must have experience defending his or her opinions and methods on top of just being able to set up and execute an accurate recreation.

Since our attorneys have been litigating cases dealing with vehicular accidents for more than two decades, we understand the importance of these recreations, and we've developed strong consulting partnerships with recreation experts whom we know from experience can be effective. We keep our ear to the ground as far new trends in accident recreation and other emerging technologies, so we always strive to stay on the cutting edge.

To learn more about how we can help you prove the fault of the liable party in your rollover accident by running a recreation of a similar wreck, call us now for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000 (toll free).