In response to my Dec. 23, 2006 “The Most Deadly Vehicle” article, I received an email from Paula Lawlor, a roof crush consultant, who has co-authored, along with Todd Tracy, “Deadly By Design“. According to its authors, “Deadly By Design” is “An expose of the weak government standard that has lead to more than three decades of unnecessary fatalities and catastrophic injuries in rollover accidents”. “Deadly By Design” goes through the history and statistics of “roof crush intrusion” or what is sometimes called “roof crush failure” or simply “roof crush”.
The conclusion that Lawlor and Tracy come to is:
Year after year, for the past 36 years, thousands of people have unnecessarily died and been maimed due to pathetically weak roof structures that crush excessively during a rollover. Rather than engineer roof designs that promote the idea of preserving
the passenger compartment space, the vehicle industry has made a concerted effort to defend itself in litigation with a defense known as the “diving theory” which has proven to be a hoax.
Having been involved in litigating dozens of rollover vehicle accident cases wherein “roof crush” was responsible for multiple deaths and catastrophic injuries, I am in agreement with the conclusion of the Lawlor/Tracy expose. With ten thousand deaths and 16,000 catastrophic injuries each year due to rollover accidents, why hasn’t the auto industry built their vehicles more stable, in order to prevent rollovers and built the roofs to hold up in a rollover accident The auto industries’ own data indicates that stronger roofs save lives, yet they fight every attempt to legislate stronger roofs.
Is it any wonder that the American auto industry is continuing to lose market share and billions of dollars annually. Their philosophy of fighting higher standards for automobile safety standards is appalling. They will spend more on cosmetic extras, leather seats, navigation and entertainment systems than they will on safer more reliable vehicles. Maybe their philosophy of building questionably safe vehicles, according to today’s technology, and then defending lawsuits with junk science and smoke screens is catching up to them. Maybe if they start “doing what is right” rather than worry about the next quarterly report, it would turn them toward long run profitability and respectability.
Everyone of our rollover/roof crush cases has encountered the auto industry’s “diving theory” as well as multiple other defenses. So far we have been successful in ninety percent of our rollover/roof crush cases. We continue to accept and aggressively pursue rollover and roof crush cases that have resulted in a death or catastrophic injury. Litigating these cases is our way of coaxing the auto industry to build safer vehicles for us all and holding them accountable for the harm their negligence has caused.