Home / Blog / Most Common Causes of Rollover Accidents

According to NHTSA research and statistics, rollover crashes are some of the rarest types of traffic accidents, accounting for only 3% of all vehicle crashes in the United States. Despite that, they are also among the deadliest, being responsible for almost one-third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities nationwide.

If you or someone you love have been injured in a rollover crash caused by someone else, you may be owed substantial compensation.

What is Considered a Rollover Accident?

A car accident may be defined as a rollover accident if at least one vehicle:

  • Tipped on one of its sides
  • Rolled upside down, with the roof in contact with the pavement
  • In rare circumstances, tipped nose upright, resting on the rear end
  • Made at least one complete rotation, regardless of final resting orientation (including on the tires)

According to the NHTSA’s Rollover Data Special Study (RODSS) project, 68% of rollover accidents involve a single vehicle, and 50% involve a single occupant in the rolled vehicle.

However, it is essential to remember that rollovers may cause the vehicle to flip multiple times, strike other vehicles, or hit pedestrians, contributing to this accident type’s high fatality rate.

Rollover accidents are further classified into two categories: untripped and tripped.

  • An untripped rollover accident causes a vehicle to flip and roll without external factors involved, typically due to driver error. For example, overly aggressive driving.
  • A tripped rollover accident results from the vehicle hitting an obstacle, such as a curb, a ditch, a depression, a guard rail, another vehicle, or road debris.

In an untripped rollover crash, other people who are injured or the families of people who are killed as a result of the driver’s negligence (such as occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians) can usually hold the driver liable for injuries or deaths.

In a tripped rollover crash, the driver of the vehicle may be able to hold the party responsible for their crash liable for their injuries. Examples could be the driver of another vehicle if they were driving recklessly or failed to properly secure cargo, or the government body responsible for designing or maintaining the road.

What Can Cause a Vehicle to Roll Over?

Although nearly any motor vehicle can roll over, many common factors can significantly increase the chances of a rollover occurring.

  • Vehicle type:

Any vehicle with a high center of gravity or top-heavy weight distribution is more susceptible to rollover accidents. A high center of gravity combined with sufficient speed and overly sharp turning can cause a vehicle to tip to the side, creating an untripped rollover accident.

Every year, the NHTSA assigns car safety star ratings according to a series of tests, including rollover safety. The worst-rated vehicles (1 or 2 stars) are typically SUVs, mini-vans, and pickup trucks.

SUVs are especially susceptible to rollovers, and their flimsy roofs are a major cause of traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and fatalities.   

  • Defects:

A design or part defect can cause a rollover. Common defects include defective brakes, electrical system issues, software defects, steering wheel problems, and defective tires and airbags.

Recalling vehicles for faulty equipment is not that common, but it does occur. If part of a vehicle is not up to standard, it could force a driver off the road or cause an accident. You can look up your vehicle to find out if it has a safety issue. And if your rollover may have been caused by a dangerous design defect, you may be eligible for compensation from the manufacturer.

  • Speed:

Driving at high speeds is dangerous. The faster a vehicle goes, the more braking distance it will need to bring it to a complete stop, and the less time the driver has to react to sudden obstacles.

These factors can cause drivers to swerve too much, over-correct their vehicle’s trajectory, potentially sending it into a roll, or ejecting its occupants, such as in a June 2020 incident in Southwest Indianapolis.

Speed can also be a factor if you are struck by another vehicle, causing your car to rollover.

  • Tire grip:

Insufficient tire grip, typically caused by overly worn or damaged tires, can have catastrophic results on the driver’s ability to keep their vehicle under control. The low grip may cause the vehicle to skid, spin, or even rollover.

The best way to avoid tire grip-related incidents is to use the same tires as the factory standard models, replace them before they become too worn out, and avoid using third-party tire products.

  • Other Drivers:

Sometimes people are forced to swerve to avoid collisions with a driver. If another driver is fatigued, drunk, or distracted at the wheel and accidentally enters your lane, you could be forced to swerve out of the way to avoid a collision, causing your vehicle to rollover.

Driver fatigue is a leading cause of car accidents and affects as many as 37% of workers, while an estimated 32% of recorded rollover accidents involved a drunk driver. Reduced reaction times, diminished ability to perceive obstacles, and poor speed control create conditions where your vehicle may be struck, and rollover or you swerve to avoid being hit by a drunk driver and rollover.

What Injuries Do Rollover Accident Victims Sustain?

A rollover accident is a violent and traumatic event that can cause severe injuries or death. The chances of survival depend on using a seat belt, the vehicle’s speed, and the location and severity of the impact.

Common injuries sustained by vehicle occupants during a rollover accident include:

  • Bruises, cuts, lacerations, damaged tendons and ligaments, and other soft tissue injuries
  • Broken bones, particularly in the limbs (arms, legs, ankles) and the ribs
  • Skull fractures, neck injuries, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Internal organ damage caused by fragments piercing the occupants’ bodies
  • Death

When your injuries after a rollover crash are not your fault, you deserve compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. When victims are killed, their families also deserve compensation, not only for their losses, but for funeral expenses as well, through a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Indianapolis car accident lawyers at Wagner Reese, LLP have helped many clients and their families seek the compensation they deserve following traumatic and deadly traffic accidents. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a rollover accident, contact our law firm for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.