$1,875,000 Settlement for Defective Design of Passenger Compartment

  • Date: Winter 2005
  • FIRM
  • Settlement: $1,875,000
  • Practice Areas: Automotive Product Liability, Wrongful Death, Defective Steering Column Design, Defective Steering Wheel Design, Defective Design of Passenger Compartment, Inadequate Crash Testing

The firm represented the estate and family of a young father who was traveling in his 1993 minivan with his wife and two children. He was killed in a crash he should have survived after being trapped by his steering wheel. He and his wife bought that particular minivan based upon the manufacturer’s representations that it was safer than other minivans available. Unfortunately, in this offset crash, at clearly survivable speeds, this particular model of minivan experienced massive failure of its occupant compartment or survival space.

Since the late 1960’s motor vehicle manufacturers have accepted that every vehicle is built around a safety cage which forms the backbone of every vehicle’s safety system. That safety cage, which is also referred to as a non-encroachment zone or survival space, is the last line of defense for passengers in a crash. Nevertheless, car manufacturers have continued to take shortcuts in vehicle development and testing; shortcuts which have left many cars with serious weaknesses in the safety cage structure which are not discovered until someone is injured or killed.

While many manufacturers comprehensively test their vehicle structures, other companies only do the smallest amount of testing required to pass minimum federal safety standards requirements. The result is that some vehicles can perform very well in common accident scenarios, while others do very poorly because they were never tested to see how they would perform in some of the most common types of accidents.