15-passenger van rollovers
Of particular concern to safety advocates are 15-passenger vans, built to transport over a dozen occupants in five rows of passenger seats.
Despite their known dangers, fifteen-passenger vans are very popular in the United States. From family vacations to transporting school teams or church groups, these vans are used all the time here in Texas and across the country. Fifteen-passenger vans are available for rent at economical daily rates. In most states, drivers need no specialized license to drive a 15-passenger van, even though under federal vehicle safety guidelines, these large vans are classified as buses.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2015 there were approximately 648,000 registered 15-passenger vans. The most popular model (63%) is the Ford Econo Club E-350. In 2016, Ford stopped producing this van model, replacing it with the Transit T-350. The only other 15-passenger van models currently being manufactured and sold in the United States are the Chevrolet Express 3500 and the GMC Savana 3500.
The likelihood that there will be a rollover accident in a 15-passenger van is over 400% higher when the van is filled with passengers (compared to being empty except for the driver). (When a sedan is fully loaded, its chances of rollover increase only 20 %.) Rollovers are more likely in fully-loaded SUVs and minivans (100% higher), but nothing compares to the rollover risk facing a group being transported in a fully-loaded 15-passenger van.
The increasing rollover risk, from sedan to fifteen-passenger van, arises from the different centers of gravity for each of these vehicle types. For instance, according to NHTSA, in full-loaded conditions the center of gravity increases only 0.9 inches for minivans but jumps a shocking 4 inches for 15-passenger vans.
Causes of Rollover Accidents
Often, rollover accidents happen because of a defective design in the vehicle itself, or one of its key components (like the tires). Tire defects and tire blowouts are also notorious for causing fatal rollover accidents.
Design defects can be deadly, as well, because of design flaws in the roof, the seats, or the window glass. If the vehicle is not equipped with proper roll bars or roll cages, then occupants can die.
Most rollover crashes happened during routine driving (90%). The driver is going straight down the roadway or negotiating a curve and suddenly, the vehicle is flipping and rolling.
Product Liability Lawsuits Following a Fatal Rollover
When someone is seriously injured or killed in a rollover accident, there is a need to investigate the cause of the crash to determine if defective product design was involved. When a product defect is discovered, then there are legal claims that can be made against the manufacturer as well as the distributor.
Sometimes, the rollover accident will be complex. Additional claims based upon negligence may need to be filed if another driver was at fault or if other factors caused the vehicle to swerve with a resulting rollover.
Experienced Rollover Accident Attorneys
Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP has fought against the tragedy of fatal rollover accidents in past cases, with particular experience seeking to force manufacturers to take responsibility for rollover crashes involving 15-passenger vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks.
Wigington Recognized as Authority on Rollover Litigation
In the aftermath of the $225 Million Jury Verdict against Ford Motor Company in a fatal rollover involving a Ford pickup truck, Jeff Wigington was interviewed by Trial Excellence magazine, a publication of the American Society of Trial Consultants, to discuss his perceptions of the trial and its aftermath.
Read: Finley, David, and Chelsey Drysdale. "Strategic Use of Ford Crash Test Undermines Critical Defenses in F-150 Rollover Case." Jury Expert 15 (2003): 12.