Sunroofs are wonderful additions to cars, providing additional light and making the space feel larger. Nearly half of all cars sold in the U.S. today have a sunroof. Some cars even have more than one, creating a vehicle roof that is almost entirely glass.
While this can seem appealing, sunroofs come with certain risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sunroofs were responsible for over 200 car accident deaths between 2002 and 2012. During the same time period, over 500 people per year suffered injuries because of a sunroof. When a sunroof is open, passengers can be ejected from a car. About 300 people die in car crashes every year from being ejected.
Government regulations require seat belts and other safety features. At present, however, there are no government regulations on sunroofs and their construction. This means that car manufacturers essentially regulate themselves.
Most sunroofs use tempered glass, similar to what you have in your home. Laminated safety glass, like your car’s windshield, is much safer and is designed to withstand much greater forces before shattering. If car manufacturers used laminated safety glass in sunroofs, it might save lives.
Some car manufacturers, like Volvo, have started using laminated safety glass for their sunroofs in new vehicles. However, most car manufacturers have not made the same changes. They suggest that it could actually cause more harm than good, as a passenger could hit the sunroof and instead of the glass cracking, potentially causing catastrophic injuries. While a legitimate concern, the uncertainty around what type of glass to use and the impact, positive or negative, on passenger safety is because there is a lack of regulation.
Factors Affecting Sunroof-Related Injuries
There are many steps that drivers and passengers can take to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries resulting from a sunroof:
- Using a seat belt correctly.
- Sitting correctly.
- Keeping children properly restrained.
- Driving within the speed limit.
Car manufacturers play a big role in the safety of passengers in a crash as well. Airbags can be extremely helpful in preventing a passenger from being ejected through a sunroof in a crash. However, very few car manufacturers have sunroof airbags.
In fact, side-impact airbags, while useful for keeping passengers from being ejected out of side windows, can actually increase the likelihood of a passenger being ejected through a sunroof. This happens because a passenger’s body bounces off the side-impact air bag and could be pushed in the direction of the sunroof.
Because the industry is self-regulated regarding sunroof safety, very few car manufacturers have taken safety steps to improve the safety of their sunroofs. This is unfortunate because it has resulted in unnecessary deaths and injuries. If a car manufacturer took appropriate safety measures in designing and manufacturing their vehicle’s sunroofs, these injuries and deaths may not have occurred.
If you have been injured in a car crash because of a sunroof, you may have a products liability claim. There are three types of products liability claims:
- Design defect: You allege that the design of the sunroof is inherently defective. A design defect usually involves a defect in an entire fleet of vehicles, not just one.
- Manufacturing defect: You allege that the sunroof was put together incorrectly during the manufacturing process. This could occur to multiple vehicles but could also have happened to just yours.
- Marketing defect: The least likely path for you in this instance, a marketing defect alleges that the sunroof did not come with proper warnings or instructions.
The most likely path for you is to allege a design defect, manufacturing defect, or both. You will need to provide substantial evidence to support your claim, which is why it is vital that you have a lawyer. You will need to have your crash investigated by accident reconstruction experts who can determine if your sunroof was defectively assembled. They can also conduct research on whether a similar injury or incident has occurred with other vehicles like yours, working to build a design defect case.
While a lawsuit may not be on your mind after suffering injuries in a car crash, it is important to start the process right away. Your lawyer will need time to collect evidence, speak with witnesses, and investigate your accident. They do all of this with the goal of protecting your rights.
Your lawyer may try to get you compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Lost income.
- Lost earning potential.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of life enjoyment.
- Present and future medical expenses.
- Rehabilitation costs.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may face a lifetime of medical care and attention, making it nearly impossible for you to support yourself financially. If that is the case, you may be able to collect compensation for your lost income and earning potential, something your lawyer can advise you on and help you estimate. Working with medical experts to understand the hurdles you face and the time you will need to recover, your lawyer can create an accurate estimate of your future financial needs.
Your lawyer will also advocate on your behalf with the car manufacturer’s insurance company. They will likely want to settle your case quickly and quietly. To do that, they may call you just days after your accident and offer you a quick settlement. They may tell you that it is the highest offer they can make and that you need to take it today. Do not listen to them. They are not looking out for your best interests.
Your lawyer has your best interests in mind. Creating an accurate estimate gives your lawyer a better understanding of just how much money you will need to avoid paying out of pocket to cover your medical bills and lost income. This gives your lawyer a good place to start when negotiating with the car manufacturer. Without this guidance and advocacy, you could end up in financial hardship resulting from the accident and injuries.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You Explore Your Options if a Sunroof Contributed to Your Injuries
While cars with a sunroof are popular, when not built correctly, they can be dangerous. Speak with one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers if you have serious injuries from a sunroof-related accident. Our legal team at East Coast Trial Lawyers will determine the best course of action. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.