The Mechanics of a Rollover Car Accident

Any type of car accident on a Chicago roadway can be a terrifying event. Whether it is a rear-end collision, a head-on crash, or even an accident that stems from a driver running a red light, the drivers and passengers involved in the incident may realize their lives changed forever due to the collision. In the worst incidents, someone involved will be killed, leading to a loss that can never be repaired and to suffering that can never be righted among the loved ones of a victim.

Any type of collision can cause injuries or death but among the most dangerous are rollover car accidents. In Illinois, like elsewhere in the nation, rollover incidents account for a very small number of the total crashes but a relatively high proportion of the total deaths caused in traffic accidents. Roughly three percent of American collisions involve a rollover but roughly 30 percent of all traffic deaths among those riding in a passenger vehicle happen in a rollover accident.

Rollover accident typically start in one of two ways. Either a collision happens or it does not, and the events that follow lead to a rollover. Experts refer to these two situations as a tripped or an untripped rollover where tripped rollovers involve an initial impact and untripped do not.

In some instance, two vehicles will collide, leading to a tripped rollover. In other cases, a car will strike a fixed object like a light pole, a sign, or even a curb before a rollover takes place. In contrast, untripped rollovers happen more frequently when a motorist takes a tight turn at a high rate of speed or when a tire blows out, causing a driver to lose control of a vehicle.

Any type of vehicle can roll over but some are more prone to a roll than others. Vehicles that are narrow, have a high center of gravity, or vehicles with an uneven load inside of them are more like to roll. Examples include passenger vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, and large trucks with poorly loaded cargo but any car can roll.

By definition, any time a vehicle leaves its wheels and its side and/or roof touches the ground at least once, it is a rollover collision. Whether it begins with an impact or as a single car incident, the moment a car’s side collides with the pavement of a road’s surface, an accident will be labeled as a rollover regardless of whether that car remains on its side, rolls onto its roof, or even rolls back onto its wheels. These collisions involve at least one impact but often several as a car strikes its sides, roof, and wheels on the road. In fact, the more times a car rolls, the more impacts that result and the more likely that injuries will stem from that incident.

While modern safety features have been introduced into new vehicles, few advances have focused on keeping passengers safe during a rollover. These collisions are relatively uncommon compared to something like a rear-end crash and therefore they get less attention by engineers and others who design vehicles. Further, as a rollover involves many, if not all, exterior surfaces of a car, it can be incredibly difficult to anticipate a set of features that will provide additional safety to occupants and to put those features into use in a fleet of cars.

However, some advances toward the strength and overall design of roofs have led to fewer collapses during a rollover and therefore fewer passengers being trapped inside of a car. Further, the advent of side curtain airbags with additional structural reinforcements to the occupant area of a car have helped vehicles maintain their integrity while cushioning passengers inside in the event of a rollover, lessening some of the harm that may otherwise have occurred.

Most of the time, a car accident happens due to the mistake or negligent conduct of a driver or due to an error by a mechanic, an auto manufacturer, or someone who has serviced a car. In Illinois, if someone is responsible for a collision, that individual or that company may be civilly liable for any damages that result to the victims of an accident, including any medical expenses they incur and any pain and suffering they endure. It is a victim’s right to work with a personal injury lawyer to help them get the relief they deserve but victims must act within a time period specified by law or they will be barred forever from obtaining relief.

Prior Blog Entry:

Chicago Workers May be Safer as OSHA Penalties Set to Increase, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 8, 2016.


Car rollover 101, how rollovers happen and what you can do to avoid one, ConsumerReports, published April 2014.

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