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Small pickup truck crash tests reveal safety gap for rear-seat passengers

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2023 | PERSONAL INJURY (PLAINTIFF) - Personal Injury

Among the various types of private vehicles, pickup trucks are some of the most versatile. Because they’re mainly used for hauling large cargo and towing, pickups are considered durable and dependable. But that ruggedness doesn’t always translate to passenger safety, new tests have revealed.

A recent release from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that none of the five small pickup trucks it put through frontal crash testing got a good rating. According to the safety organization, a common problem among the five pickups was that the rear passenger dummy during testing indicated high risks of neck or chest injuries. The rear passenger dummy’s head also came very close to hitting the front seatback in four of the trucks tested, the IIHS explained.

The five small pickups tested were the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. The IIHS rated the Frontier acceptable, while the Ranger got a marginal rating. The remaining three got poor ratings.

Suppose you were a passenger in any of these pickups and were injured in a vehicular accident. Can you sue the automaker for the poor safety ratings of their vehicle?

Vehicle defects and crashworthiness

If you’re looking to sue an automaker for safety oversight in the design of their automobile, you must first understand the importance of “crashworthiness.” Crashworthiness is an automobile’s capability to prevent its occupants from sustaining injuries during a collision, specifically when “secondary impacts” occur. Secondary impacts occur when occupants violently collide against the vehicle’s interior after the automobile crashes with something (i.e., the primary impact).

A vehicle design is crashworthy if it has features that can successfully minimize the forces of secondary impacts. Safety features like airbags and seatbelts help with this. There’s also a reasonable expectation that auto manufacturers design their vehicles to keep occupants safe during a collision.

To pursue a vehicle defect lawsuit based on crashworthiness, you must show that your injury was avoidable had the manufacturer addressed a safety design flaw. Using the small pickup truck test results as an example, you could claim that the manufacturer failed to account for the safety of rear-seat passengers, especially when the seatbelts did little to prevent a rear-seat passenger’s head from slamming into the seat in front of them. You could then cite the IIHS test results as evidence supporting your claim.

Vehicle defect lawsuits are incredibly complicated, and auto manufacturers can use their vast resources to bury a case in court. You might want to consult an experienced attorney who can represent you in court and protect your rights as a consumer.