Defective Auto Glass Claims
There are a number of automotive glass products used in the windows of cars, trucks, and SUVs. The use of certain glass or glazing products can make a substantial difference in providing protection to those inside the vehicle in the event of an accident.
All too often, occupants of vehicles are seriously injured and killed when they are ejected or partially ejected during an automobile accident. It has long been recognized within the automotive safety community that keeping occupants inside of, or “contained” within, the vehicle is critical to occupant protection. If an occupant is ejected, or even partially ejected, the occupant’s risk of catastrophic injury or death dramatically increases. When a vehicle contains defective glass, the likelihood of injury increases.
Laminated and Tempered Glass
Defective laminated and tempered glass results in many fatal injuries in South Carolina every year. Most cars today utilize “laminated” glass for the windshield and “tempered” glass for the side and rear windows. Laminated glass, also sometimes generally referred to as “safety glass,” is specifically designed to remain intact in the event of an accident. Laminated glass is designed to absorb energy and contain the vehicle’s occupants should they strike the windshield in a crash. Most laminated glass products are constructed of two layers of glass bonded together by an inside layer of plastic, usually PVB (polyvinyl butyral), which prevents the laminated glass from shattering. As a result, it is extremely effective in preventing occupant ejections and related injuries outside of the vehicle.
Tempered glass, on the other hand, is a single piece of heat-treated auto glass which is designed to shatter into small pieces when impacted or caused to flex in an accident. In the event of an accident, the tempered glass will shatter. The broken glass leaves behind an open hole or portal through which an occupant can be ejected, or come into direct contact with the road or ground. Because of the prevalence of tempered glass in side and rear windows in many vehicles today, occupant ejections and partial ejection-related injuries and deaths are common.
Many of these tragic injuries and fatalities could be prevented if the manufacturer incorporated laminated or another form of safety glass or glass-plastics into all vehicle windows. However, despite awareness of the importance of occupant containment in safe vehicle design, the industry has been resistant to utilizing safer glass alternatives in all windows.
Seatback Failure Claims
The determining factor to whether you walk away from a serious rear-end accident or become seriously injured often depends on the performance of your seatback. There is a general agreement that a seatback should not let an occupant’s seat slam backwards when involved in a rear-end accident. When the seatback fails, it not only causes serious injury to the front seat passengers, but the back seat passengers as well. The automotive industry is still debating the best design for seatbacks to prevent substantial injury.
The Role of Seatbacks
When involved in an automobile accident, you have the airbag and seatbelt safety features to to protect the occupants from serious injury. However, in a rear-end accident it is the seatback that is critical to prevent injuries. When the setback fails, the airbag and seatbelt safety features may not be able to prevent injury, and may even result in occupant ejection. It is critical that the seatback be designed with sufficient structural integrity to keep each occupants safely in place. If poor choices are made whether usage of defective materials, faulty installation, poor design, or safer alternative designs are ignored, significant injuries can result.
Vehicle Stability Claims
With the immense popularity of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) has come an alarming increase in rollover accidents. These accidents are often blamed on the driver of the vehicle who is accused of over-steering and losing control. However, it is now known that the stability of the vehicle itself has an enormous impact on whether or not it may rollover as designed in foreseeable emergency driving maneuvers. Because the design of SUVs vary greatly, some vehicles are more prone to rollover than others.
When the term “Electronic Stability Control” (ESC) is used, it generally refers to the use of technologies and computer systems that serve to prevent the loss-of-control by drivers of vehicles and reduce rollovers. These systems use sensors and microprocessors to determine when a vehicle is beginning to become unstable and automatically engages the braking system on a wheel-by-wheel basis to help stabilize the vehicle and bring it back under the driver’s control.
Each year the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration issues “rollover ratings” for SUV’s (Sport Utility Vehicles), pick-ups, vans and passenger cars. The rating is designed to help consumers identify those vehicles that are the least likely to rollover. Each year these ratings are updated, and they serve as a helpful guide to consumers. Unfortunately, not all vehicles are designed well, and as a result hundreds of consumers die each year. As a result, the inherent stability of the vehicle must be examined and the possibility of a product defect claim explored when catastrophic loss-of-control accidents occur.
In fact, in any single-vehicle accident involving an SUV manufactured after 1999 where the stability of the vehicle or actions of the driver are implicated, it is vitally important to consider whether the vehicle had electronic stability control. If the manufacturer failed to incorporate electronic stability control-type systems, a potential product defect claim exists.
The effectiveness of ESC as a safety feature to prevent injuries has been heralded as one of the most significant safety improvements since the seat belt. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that ESC systems reduce the likelihood of fatalities in single-vehicle crashes by 56 percent. The safety benefits of stability control have been known to auto manufacturers since the mid 1990s, but the industry has been slow to incorporate it into every vehicle despite its known benefits.
Fuel System Defect Claims
It is generally recognized among automotive designers that vehicle occupants should not be seriously injured or killed due to a post-collision fire if the accident is otherwise survivable. Unfortunately, despite consensus in this area of the importance of designing vehicles to prevent thermal injuries or fire related deaths post-accident, an alarming number of people are still injured or killed each year in South Carolina due to faulty fuel system designs.
Investigating and pursuing a South Carolina fuel system defect case requires the participation of multiple experts.
First, a detailed accident reconstruction must be performed to ensure that the accident sequence is fully understood, and that the impact forces and amount of vehicular damage are accurately calculated. Only with a full understanding of the initial crash can it be determined if a potential fuel system defect may exist.
Second, an appropriate medical expert must be consulted to determine whether the initial crash or the resulting fire caused the injuries or wrongful death. If the injuries or death were not caused by the post-crash fire, then a fuel system defect claim will not exist. However, if the accident itself was survivable but for the fire, a deeper investigation should be done.
Specifically, a cause-and-origin expert, typically an experienced fire or arson investigator, must be retained to pin-point where the fire started and determine why it spread causing the injuries or death involved. Similarly, a fuel system design engineer must be consulted to evaluate if the fuel system is defective in either it’s design or manufacture. If potential design alternatives existed to prevent the tragedy, or if failures occurred in the system’s performance that should not have happened, then a fuel system defect claim may well exist.
Vehicle fires can be the most dangerous and disastrous fires with damaging consequences. Automobiles are full of combustible liquids and flammable materials. When there is a problem, it only takes a few seconds for flames to completely engulf a car if the gas tank ignites and cause serious injury or death. The most common causes of fires include poor placement of fuel tanks, faulty designs, and defective fuel line materials.
Child Seat Defect Claims
Children are our most precious cargo, and as consumers we rely upon manufacturers of child seats, boosters and the like to provide our kids protection when it is needed. Unfortunately, not all child restraints are created equal. In fact, often those responsible for designing child restraints lack the experience and qualifications to adequately take into consideration the multitude of factors that play into making a seat perform adequately in foreseeable crashes. This could lead to a child seat defect, and your child may be at risk.
Another major concern with child seats are their compatibility with the variety of cars, vans and trucks they are used with. If the child seat does not comply with standards mandated to ensure compatibility, then the ability of the seat to provide protection can be compromised with devastating consequences.
Trailer Defect Claims
Every year on American highways preventable accidents occur involving travel trailers of various lengths and configurations. The phenomenon commonly referred to as “trailer sway” occurs when a trailer being towed by a car, truck or van begins to sway or swing back and forth as it is being pulled. Often this side-to-side oscillation of the trailer occurs due to air disturbances caused by passing tractor trailers or wind gusts.
When swaying occurs there are a number of things consumers can do to regain control of the swaying trailer. This information is critical for consumers to have, but, unfortunately, the industry and dealerships often do not adequately warn of the risks of trailer sway or provide instructions on how to properly respond.
In fact, it is generally recognized by experts in this area that consumers often do things in the way of steering and braking that have the unintended consequence of actually making sway worse once it starts. Because of this proper instructions and warnings are needed. If they are not provided and an accident happens, a claim may exist against the trailer manufacture, the hitch manufacturer, and the dealership.
The fact is that the dangers of trailer sway have been known within the trailer industry for decades. While only so much can be done when designing a trailer to minimize its propensity to sway, technologies and alternative designs do exist that can have a dramatic effect on reducing the propensity of a trailer to sway uncontrollably. Often times, however, it is discovered after a trailer sway accident that these simple alternatives where not used or even considered.
As South Carolina Automobile Defect Attorneys, We Can Help.
If you or someone you know was ejected or partially ejected in an accident and seriously injured, contact us for a free evaluation of your substandard and/or defective auto glass claim. At the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. we stand ready to bring our knowledge to bear for consumers injured in any kind of automobile defect.