Car rollover accidents are one of the most serious kinds of car accidents there are, and something you’re certainly not going to be driving away from. In fact, you might sustain additional injuries as you attempt to exit your car. So let’s first go over some background information then discuss what you should do after a rollover crash.
Rollover Crash Types and Their Causes
There are two categories of rollover accidents: tripped and un-tripped.
A tripped rollover is much like when you trip and fall while walking. While skidding sideways something such as a curb or low guardrail stops the lower part of the vehicle while inertia continues to carry the rest, causing it to flip over onto its side or roof. Sliding off the pavement onto soft soil as well as side-collisions can also cause a trip. All told, over 3/4 of all rollover accidents are tripped.
Less commonly, a sudden change or jerk in steering, such as when trying to avoid a collision, can cause an un-tripped rollover. Speed and traction are other key factors, along with (no surprise here) heavy slopes. Un-tripped accidents are more likely as a vehicle is rounding a corner — traction keeps the tires inward while centrifugal force pushes the vehicle outward. Poor road conditions as well as vehicle or tire defects are also contributing factors.
Taller vehicles with a higher center of gravity such as SUVs are more prone to these types of accidents, but any vehicle can tip over. Fortunately recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards mean that newer vehicles have electronic stability control systems to prevent some rollovers as well as improved roll-cage standards to better protect passengers should such an accident occur.
What You Should Do After a Rollover Accident
Prevention is of course the best approach. Avoid risky passing situation that might require sudden lane changes. Slow down during wet, snowy, or icy road conditions. Slow down further whenever you see a sharp curve or dangerous situation ahead. Your vehicle will be less likely to skid and trip, and there will be less energy to go into a flip.
Make a Safe Escape
Rollover crashes are some 10 times more likely to result in fatalities than other car accidents, and are certainly terrifying to experience. But once your vehicle has come to rest the danger isn’t over. Additional injuries can occur as you unbuckle your seat belt while upside down. You could also be injured while exiting through a broken windshield or window. And some injuries, such as broken bones are made worse by moving around. Here’s some important steps to take after a rollover accident.
- Do your best to remain calm and assess the situation. How seriously have you been injured? What about others in the vehicle? With severe injuries it’s often best to not move, and instead wait for assistance from emergency medical personnel.
- If you must exit, first think through the best route. Does the door still open? Can a window be rolled down? If you need to exit through a broken window or windshield, clear any shards of glass first. Then stabilize yourself by bracing your feet against the floor and pressing one hand against the ceiling. Only now are you ready to release your seat belt.
- Once free, help others free themselves.
- Move away from the vehicle, especially if there’s a fuel leak, but stay clear of any potential traffic.
- Make sure that 911 has been called and that help is on the way.
As with any serious car accident it’s important to protect your rights to insurance compensation and any necessary legal action. That means documenting the accident to the greatest extent possible, including making sure a police report was filed and reviewing it for accuracy and completeness. It’s commonly advised that you not discuss liability or compensation nor sign any insurance paperwork until you’ve consulted with a personal injury attorney.