Our firm recently settled another crashworthiness case involving a heavy truck or 18-wheeler cab. In this case, the driver for some unknown reason lost control of his rig and it overturned 180 degrees onto the roof in the median of I-85 between Auburn and Montgomery. The roof crushed all the way to the dash in the rollover. The driver survived the wreck and asked witnesses for help in getting out of the cab. But, only his arm would fit through the window opening due to the cab crush. Within minutes of the crash, the vehicle burst into flames and the driver, who was unable to get out of the severely crushed cab, died a tragic death.
We brought claims against the truck manufacturer for lack of crashworthiness as well as a claim for defects related to the fuel-fed fire. During the rollover, one of the unprotected fuel tanks ruptured, spilling fuel. Unfortunately, the battery cables for the engine were located in an area near the fuel tank. The cables arced, providing an ignition source. For years prior to the manufacture of this vehicle, other manufacturers have been placing batteries between the frame rails in order to move the battery cables away from fuel tanks in the event there was a collision. This company failed to do so.
Additionally, this particular model truck had never been tested in a dynamic rollover event before production so the manufacturer was unaware of how the cab would perform in a rollover event. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, government studies have shown that there is a significant need for heavy trucks to be designed with occupant survival space. However, heavy truck manufacturers continue to ignore this need for occupants and continue to produce un-crashworthy cabs made of lightweight aluminum and fiberglass. In this case, if the roof strength had been adequate the driver would have been able to escape the cab before the fire got out of control. This case was settled for a confidential amount on behalf of the decedent’s family. Ben Baker was the lead lawyer for our firm and did a very good job for our clients.
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