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Roof Crush

Roof crush is the primary source of serious injuries in rollover accidents. Sadly roof crush could be easily avoided by constructing vehicles with adequate roof crush resistance. In fact, when SUV's were first introduced, roll bars were standard because the vehicles were used primarily for off-roading.

Roof crush is exactly what it sounds like. An impact to the roof of the vehicle causes it to protrude into the passenger compartment. This occurs most often during a rollover, but can happen in other types of accidents, such as a tunnel collapse. Roof crush can cause injuries in several ways:

  • Impact with the roof itself
  • Seat belt failure
  • Ejection

Injuries occurring to passengers inside of the vehicle during roof crush can include:

  • Head injury
  • Brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck fractures
  • Paralysis
  • Suffocation
  • Death

Inside the vehicle, injuries to the head, neck and spinal cord can occur in several ways. When the occupant's head is in an upright position, compression forces cause a bursting fracture in the C5 to C7 vertebrae of the cervical spine.

Roof crush can cause seatbelt failure leading to a "diving" injury. Slack created in the seatbelt allows the passenger to gain momentum before striking the roof. Diving injuries cause a fracture of vertebrae, rather than bursting, which then press on the spinal cord.

When roof crush causes the windows and/or windshield of the vehicle to burst, occupants are often ejected from the vehicle causing even more injuries. Ejection injuries can be extensive, including amputations and decapitations, and often involved being hit or run over by other vehicles, or being crushed by the original vehicle as the rollover continues.

Roof crush resistance

One aspect of crashworthiness is roof crush resistance. Unfortunately, even the vehicles most likely to roll, SUV's and large passenger vans, typically have very poor roof crush resistance. The fact that rollover accidents are rare is no excuse, considering the vastly disproportional amount of fatalities they cause.

Hollow roof pillars, weak roof headers and side walls, and the absence of a roll bar all increase the likelihood of roof crush.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 216 is the safety regulation which establishes guidelines for roof crush protection. Under FMVSS 216 passenger cars must be able to withstand one and a half times their own weight, but SUVs and pickups are only required to withstand 5/6 of their own weight. Ironic, considering that cars are far less likely to roll and wind up on their roofs. Large passenger vans are exempt from the regulation altogether.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an SUV rollover accident, please e-mail us today to speak with an experienced SUV rollover lawyer.


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