Vehicle rollover and roof collapse in a crash can be a sign of a vehicle defect. In this case, a pick-up truck rolled over one and a half times in the middle of the roadway and the roof structure collapsed downwards into the occupant space. As a result, the driver’s head and neck were compressed against his chest, resulting in positional asphyxiation. In other words, the position the driver ended up in prevented him from breathing properly and he died. We alleged that the design of the vehicle’s roof structure was too weak. This allowed the roof to therefore collapse downward onto the occupant’s head and upper body, ultimately killing him.
Drop testing and non-encroachment zones
Drop testing was performed to prove that, when dropped from a height of fifteen inches, the roof structure catastrophically collapsed into the occupant space. Yet, when simple and reasonable alternative designs were made, there was less than an inch intrusion into the occupant space. These simple designs included strengthening the metal by adding reinforcements.
Jaime Jackson Law argued that the roof should have been strong enough to maintain its shape and not collapse into the occupant seating area. This concept is known as a non-encroachment zone. The roof is part of a vehicle’s structural support system and create a non-encroachment zone. Non-encroachment zones, or survival spaces, should protect occupants in a crash.
Vehicles should be designed to maintain their structural integrity in a rollover. This means that the roof should not collapse downward or inward onto the occupant and strike them where it may cause significant injury or death.
In this case, settlement was reached with the vehicle manufacturer for failing to design the roof in such a way to protect the driver. The manufacturer was held accountable and the family of the driver achieved closure.