Multiple news outlets reported this week that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed crash tests on eight (8) different SUV vehicles. The crash test mimics what would be considered a violent and dangerous type of collision. Of all the vehicles tested, the Jeep Cherokee and the Ford Explorer were the only vehicles to receive a “poor” rating.
In the test, a vehicle is propelled at 40 miles an hour and strikes a barrier with just the outermost part of the bumper on the passenger’s side. It is designed to mimic the impact of a vehicle with another car or a tree or pole with just the outer part of the bumper. The occupant compartment on the Grand Cherokee was also crushed inward in the test. The crash test dummy’s head sunk into the front airbag so far that it hit the dashboard. Also, the side airbag failed to deploy while driver’s side door also opened. That allowed the dummy’s head to move outside the vehicle. Leg injuries were seen as likely and head injuries possible.
In a response email, Ford stated: “In an email, Ford said that the Explorer is safe, and has earned top scores in all other crash tests. The automaker added that a new version of the Explorer will go on sale next year, and that it expects that car will earn top scores in all Insurance Institute and government crash tests, including the small overlap test.”
What does this mean for both of these car makers? For one, I think it opens the door for auto defect lawsuits if serious injuries result from these types of crashes. In most jurisdictions (states), there are two (2) types of auto defect claims. The first is an auto product liability case, which arises when a car defect causes the accident which results in serious injury or death. These types of auto defects are referred to as crash causing defects. An example of a crash causing auto defect is the tread separation of a defective tire which results in the driver losing control of the vehicle.
The second type of auto defect case arises when a vehicle fails to provide reasonable crash protection to its occupants. This type of case is often referred to as a crash worthiness case.
For the above vehicles, if there are cases where drivers are seriously injured in violent crashes as described above, I think we could see a rise in crash worthiness auto defect lawsuits against both car makers.