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Vehicle Rollovers result in Severe Injuries

A rollover is one of the most dangerous types of collisions, often resulting in death or severe injuries.  It is typically a single car collision at high speed, and more commonly takes place on rural roads and at night. Even though rollovers represent only about 5 percent of vehicle accidents, a rollover was involved in 20 per cent of collisions in which there is a fatality. The most life-threatening injuries happen when occupants are ejected during the rollover, although the use of seat belts in Canada has greatly reduced this occurrence.   The likelihood of a rollover varies with your vehicle’s stability factor; heavier vehicles are less likely to roll, and SUV’s are much more likely to roll than many other vehicles.  Because head and brain injury are the most common injury in a rollover, these accidents are often life changing catastrophic events.

In a UK study of rollover crashes, it was determined that the main cause of fatalities was due to injury to the brain.  For occupants wearing seat belts, the following injuries are most likely to occur (in order of frequency): head, upper limbs, chest, and neck and lower limbs.  Most people sustain multiple injuries in a rollover crash; however, the head and neck are most commonly injured.  One conclusion drawn by the UK study is that the use of sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) has caused rollover collisions to be increasingly common (

Many of the injuries to occupants happen while the vehicle is upside down.  Non-ejected passengers often retain injuries to the head, neck and spine, due to the tumbling motion of the vehicle.  Roof crush commonly occurs during rollover and this causes some of the most severe injuries.  Seat belts are a huge factor in reducing ejection during a rollover, and have been credited with reducing the severity of injuries during these events.  Some studies claim that occupants in larger, heavier vehicles are often less severely injured than those in smaller vehicles, but others disagree that the weight of the vehicle has an effect on severity of injuries.

There are numerous instances of rollover collisions in Ontario in the past few years resulting in severe trauma to vehicle occupants.  In June of 2015, five Kingston area 16 and 17 year olds were involved in a catastrophic single car collision near Sydenham Ontario. The Hyundai SUV in which they were travelling left the road and hit a stone retaining wall, causing it to roll over.  Everyone had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. Tragically, two of the teens died as a result of the accident. The other three occupants were taken to hospital, one of whom had life-threatening injuries.  This event is a huge tragedy for family members of the five young people as well as many others in the Kingston community.  OPP have charged the 16 year old female driver with 2 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 2 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

A similar collision occurred just across the border, in Wausau, Wisconsin in the summer of 2014.  An SUV driven by a 17 year old girl crashed and rolled over killing two 12 year old passengers.  In this instance, there were 10 people in the vehicle heading to a local recreational area to go swimming. All of the occupants were under the age of 18 and all experienced injuries of various severity.  Young drivers seem to be over represented in single-car rollover collisions, but these accidents are by no means restricted to this age group.

In March 2014, a man suffered severe head injuries when he lost control of his Jeep causing it to go over train tracks and roll over into the Scarborough Golf Club parking lot.  The vehicle struck a tree causing the driver to be thrown from the vehicle.  In April 2015, another single vehicle rollover crash resulted in the death of 2 people and injuries for the other 4 occupants in the vehicle.  This accident occurred in Leamington Ontario.  All four of these recent accidents, chosen at random, were single car collisions that resulted in serious head injuries and in some cases, death for one or more occupants.

Many of the injuries to occupants occur when the vehicle is upside down.  Non-ejected passengers often retain injuries to the head, neck and spine, due to the tumbling motion of the vehicle.  Roof crush commonly occurs during rollover and this action causes many of the most severe injuries.  The roof construction in vehicles varies and accordingly, roof crush will vary between vehicles, so car owners are encouraged to research vehicle safety records particularly if there are inexperienced drivers in the household.

A U. S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health Report found that that 21 per cent of seriously injured passengers in rollover collisions had a severe head injury.  Occupants who were on the far side of the rollover tended to sustain the most serious injuries.  Even when the roof crush was less than 15 cm, occupants sustained serious head injuries, it was found.  Occupants sustaining basal skull fractures often also sustained cervical spine fractures.  The study concluded that the most serious brain injuries resulted most frequently from contact with the vehicle’s roof. 

An exhaustive University of Michigan study of rollover crashes involving 997 vehicle occupants, concluded that seatbelts reduced the frequency of fatal or serious injuries by 55%, and the frequency of neck injury by 25%.  The argument for wearing seatbelts to reduce your chance of injury is powerful.  Driving without distractions, fully rested and without the influence of drugs further makes it far less likely that the driver will lose control in the first place.   For inexperienced drivers and their parents, there is a clear warning about the dangers of carrying multiple young passengers who can easily be a distraction to any driver.

Rollovers are often the result of driver error.  When these incidents result in catastrophic injuries or death to passengers or the public, the innocent victims and/or their loved ones often need long-term medical treatment, rehabilitation, loss of wages compensation, family expenses and other compensation.  The Kingston ILO (personal injury lawyers of Ontario) law team offers the relevant experience and expertise in vehicle accident claims and their associated injuries that will enable clients to receive full compensation for their losses.  Contact us for a free initial consultation.


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