Practice Area: Collisions and Defective Cars


Automobile and SUV Rollovers

While rollovers represent only about 3 percent of all crashes in the United States, they represent more than 30 percent of highway deaths according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2004, 10,553 people died in rollover accidents. 114,819 people died in rollover accidents in the years 1991 to 2002. Sports utility vehicles (SUVs), trucks and 15-passenger vans are more prone to rollover accidents than other types of vehicles following a collision, tire blowout, or emergency maneuver because of their higher center of gravity.

With the increase in the amount of high center of gravity vehicles like SUV and crossovers comes the potential for higher rates of rollover. The science is proven, and there are components that automobile manufacturers can place on the vehicles to help prevent rollovers like electronic stability control. The inquiry in rollover incidents boils down to this question: Did the manufacturer adequately lower the risk of the rollover and reduce the risk of injury from rollover through engineering and design?

15-Passenger Van Rollovers

One of the most dangerous vehicles on the road today is the 15-passenger van. The vehicles are unsafe for several reasons. First of all, they have a high center of gravity, especially when they are loaded with 15 people and their luggage. Secondly, many have rear ends that extend as far as four feet beyond the rear axle, which increases instability when this area of the van is loaded. Because of the weight of 15-passenger vans when loaded, the vehicles are also highly subject to tire blowouts caused by improperly inflated tires. For these reasons and more, the vehicles are susceptible to both loss of control and rollover accidents.

While federal law now prohibits the sale of 15-passenger vans for the transportation of students of high school age and younger, other organizations continue to use the vehicles to transport young people. These vans are frequently used by churches, colleges and other organizations to transport groups of people to and from events.

Roof Crush
We count on our car’s restraint system to keep us from being ejected in a rollover accident. By buckling our seat belts before we drive, we are doing our part to keep ourselves safe. The question is, will the vehicle’s roof structure protect us?

Car and truck safety experts know there is a direct correlation between roof crush and serious head and neck injuries. Designing roofs with pillars and support structures that are strong enough to keep the top of the vehicle from collapsing into the passenger compartment in a rollover accident only makes sense. Yet auto manufacturers have done little to create stronger roof structures in the cars and trucks they sell.

Auto Fires

Defects in a car’s fuel-delivery system or gas tank placement can cause the vehicle to burst into flames following an accident. Post-collision fires can often be traced to ruptures in the car’s fuel lines or gas tank due to faulty design or improper maintenance.

If a person can survive a collision without serious injuries, then the car’s gas tank and fuel lines should also remain intact. But when a gas tank is inadequately protected or the fuel delivery system fails, horrible burn injuries and death can be the result. Countless accidents throughout this nation occur daily with high impacts without fiery explosions. Although this type of accident is common in movies, they are rare in real life where most car fires are the result of bad maintenance or a design flaw.

Determining The Cause

In examining cause and origin of a fire several factors are considered, including any leaks in the fuel system, problems with wiring such as loose or cracked wiring, electrical or mechanical failure, and short circuits. The majority of car fires originate in the engine compartment. Electrical fires usually begin in or around the dashboard. Fuel-fed fires, on the other hand, often begin under a vehicle or on the street surface below and spread quickly as leaking gasoline ignites. Both electrical and fuel-fed fires are often caused by defective design choices in the automobile or truck at issue.

To help determine cause and origin, you need to understand the makeup of the materials, their flash points, ignition temperatures, melting points, and maintenance history of the vehicle and carefully inspect the fuel and electrical related systems. Consideration also must be given to those aspects of the vehicle design that recognize fire can occur and are supposed to allow people to escape from a fire. (E.g. the locking system, windows, etc.)

We Take On Cases Against Large Companies

The Brandi Law Firm has a team of attorneys, investigators, engineers, doctors and nurses investigating auto fire injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured by an auto fire, contact us anytime to meet with an experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney at NO CHARGE. We have recovered for our clients in actions against all of the major manufacturers including vehicles made by GM, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Mercedes, part suppliers, and others.

A person who is ejected from his or her car vehicle in an accident is three times more likely to be killed than someone who stays inside the vehicle. While belted-passengers are much more likely to stay inside the vehicle, partial ejections can occur through side windows made of tempered glass, which can easily shatter in a rollover or side-impact accident.

We have helped people and their families who have been ejected or partially ejected from their vehicle during an accident sequence. Often a person is ejected because of another failure or failures, including seat belt, seat back, or glass failures. The challenge in these matters is finding the best experts in the nation to reconstruct how the accident sequence occurred and why the occupant was ejected. Brandi Lawyers work with the best experts in the country to determine why people were ejected, and how it could have been avoided.

Defective Auto Components
Americans rely on the safety engineers in the auto industry to keep our families safe, even in an accident. However, like any manufactured machine with thousands of parts and components, sometimes those parts and components are inherently defective, poorly designed, manufactured improperly, or simply fail during use.

When an individual is injured or killed in an auto accident, it is important to examine every aspect of the case, even when another driver is clearly at fault. It is often the case that someone suffers far more serious injuries from a malfunctioning safety component in their own vehicle than they suffered from the accident. This is sometimes called “The accident within the accident.”

The Brandi Law Firm has a team of auto design failure lawyers, investigators, engineers, doctors and nurses investigating auto product liability injury cases. We have recovered for our clients in actions against all of the major manufacturers including vehicles made by GM, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Mercedes, part suppliers, and others.

Tire Defects
Hundreds of people are seriously injured or killed in California each year in tire blowout accidents, tire-tread separations and other types of tire defects. Sudden tire failure is particularly dangerous in vehicles with a high center of gravity such as trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and 15-passenger vans, which are prone to rollover.

Tire tread separation and subsequent blowout can often be traced to poor bonding or adhesion of the steel belt to the rubber components of the tire during manufacturing. Another little-known cause of failure is tire aging. Tires, like any rubber product, have a limited shelf life. When old tires that have been stored in a warehouse for several years are sold to consumers, catastrophic tire blowouts can be the result. Also, improper tire placement, where two new tires are placed on the front of the vehicle, instead of the rear, will cause hydroplaning on a wet road.

The Brandi Law Firm has a team of attorneys, investigators, engineers, doctors and nurses investigating injuries caused by tire blowout accidents and other types of tire failure.

Seatbelt Defects
When you get in your car, buckle your seat belt, and lean forward as far as you can. And then ask yourself, “Will that belt really stop me in an accident? Most of us count on our seat belts to protect us if we are involved in an accident. Unfortunately, many vehicles have seat belt defects such as:

  • Excessive “spool out”
  • Lack of seatbelt pre-tensioners to automatically snug the lap belt and shoulder belt at the start of a crash
  • Latching mechanism failure
  • Passive seat belt design
  • Torn or ribbed webbing
  • Retractor failure
  • Defective design,

The Brandi Law Firm has a team of attorneys, investigators, engineers, doctors and nurses investigating seat belt failure injury cases.

Seat Back Defects
When you are in an automobile collision, your seat belt is intended to keep you from ejecting through the windshield or into the steering wheel or dashboard. However, the structural integrity of the back of your seat is a key element to the effectiveness of the seat belt. In rear end collisions, for example, your body is thrust forward and then violently backwards. If defective the seat back may collapse with the force of your body recoiling backwards. As a result, the seat belt is no longer able to protect you, resulting in far more severe damage:

  • Seat backs fail to support the back and neck resulting in neck injury, back injury or aspinal cord injury
  • Seat back collapses cause the individual to be thrown into other passengers or components of the car, resulting infractures, head injury or other injury
  • Poorly designed headrests cause too little support, increasing the risk for paralysis; conversely, improperly designed headrests push the head forward causing neck injury or wrongful death

Seat back defects can transform even a minor accident, such as a fender bender or minor rear end collision, into an accident with catastrophic injuries. The unfortunate fact is many major vehicle manufacturers are aware of this issue but refuse to correct known defects. Although the correction may be minor in cost, in comparison to the lasting effect of a serious injury, motor vehicle manufacturers continue to make the decision to place profits before safety.

Glass Defects
Most vehicles contain only tempered glass in their side, rear and sunroof windows. In accidents, the tempered glass can shatter, causing severe lacerations to the occupants, as well as creating an opening where a passenger can be ejected.

For decades, auto manufacturers have been required to make auto windshields out of laminated glass, which consists of two layers of tempered glass with a tough plastic inner layer. Even though the tempered glass may break in a collision, the plastic laminate will hold the glass together, preventing lacerations and vehicle ejections. While auto manufacturers have introduced laminated glass in the side windows of some luxury vehicles, we don’t believe that car safety should be a luxury.

Door Latch Defects
We count on our car’s door latches to function as designed and to keep us safely inside the passenger compartment if we are ever involved in a side-impact collision or rollover accident. If the latches work properly, the doors of our vehicle will stay closed and we may survive the accident with no injuries whatsoever. If they don’t work, however, car doors can fly open upon impact, causing passengers to be ejected, seat belts to be cut, and other serious injuries to occupants to occur. Door latch defects can exist because of weak materials or poor design.

Child Restraint Defects
Vehicle restraint and protection devices are designed for an average sized adult. Therefore, children who are not in an appropriate child car seat, booster seat or other specific child restraint device are not protected by the vehicle’s restraint systems should an accident occur. Therefore, California laws mandate that all children under the age of 8 must be secured in a booster seat or other child passenger restraint.

If the restraint system works properly, your child may be spared injuries following a collision or rollover accident. If it doesn’t work, however, your child can suffer serious injuries and even wrongful death.

Car manufacturers are now required to include the LATCH child seat-tethering system consisting of two lower anchors and an upper anchor. Children are safest when properly restrained in the back seat in a removable car seat, booster seat, or infant car seat. It is important to take such precautions when placing your child in the car to avoid serious injuries. Although California laws use eight years old as a factor for child safety seats or booster seats, it is important to remember that children develop at different speeds.

When parents follow the precautions advised by law and by car seat manufacturers, yet a child still suffers catastrophic injuries in an accident, child restraint defects may be to blame.

Brake Defects
In an emergency braking maneuver, we count on our car’s brakes to function as designed and to safely bring us to a controlled stop. If our brakes work properly, we can avoid accidents with no injuries whatsoever. If they don’t work, however, the vehicle can skid out of control. Dozens of people are seriously injured or killed in California each year due to brake defects such as premature lock-up or ABS failures, brake-line defects, fluid leaks, or improper or defective brake maintenance. Many people are also seriously injured or killed by defective parking brakes.

A brake failure may come from a defective component or inadequate repair. Brandi Lawyers have access to the best experts in the nation that reconstruct accidents and determine why people have been injured.