Rollover Accidents: How They Happen and What to Do if You’re in One

rollover accidents

When you think of a road accident, your mind might range from a minor fender bender to a devastating multi-vehicle pile-up. Still, one of the most common — and dangerous — types of accidents might not involve multiple vehicles at all.  

Rollover accidents happen when a vehicle flips over onto its roof or side. This can cause devastating injuries, as the side and top of a vehicle aren’t built to absorb a huge impact. Many people in rollover accidents sustain traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and internal injuries. In some cases, rollover accidents result in death.

We look at how common rollover accidents are, how they happen, and why you might be entitled to compensation if you’re in one.

How Common Are Rollover Accidents?

Rollovers are rare when compared to other types of accidents — such as front-impact accidents and rear-end collisions. Across the US, rollover accidents make up just 3% of passenger vehicle accidents.

But when we consider how many car accidents happen in Texas each year — let alone the entire country — a sizable number of rollover accidents occur.

In Texas, one reportable crash happens every one minute and seven seconds, injuring 239,539 people.

Across the country, approximately 6.75 million car accidents happen each year. Knowing that around 3% of all passenger accidents are rollovers, we estimate that around 202,500 rollover accidents occur yearly.

But there’s another reason this car accident is so dangerous — rollovers have a high fatality rate.

Rollover Accident Fatalities

Based on 2020 data, rollover accidents accounted for 30% of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths. While multi-vehicle accidents caused 13% of fatalities, most rollover accident deaths (50%) resulted from single-vehicle crashes.

Are Some Vehicles More at Risk of a Rollover Accident?

Before we look at the common causes of rollover accidents, it’s crucial to consider which vehicles are most affected.

Vehicles may not offer much protection from severe injuries in a rollover accident, but that’s because most vehicles are designed not to tip over to begin with. This is the main reason rollover accidents are rare — at least compared to other, more common types of accidents.

That said, some vehicles are more susceptible to rolling over. These include SUVs, pick-up trucks, large commercial trucks (such as 18-wheelers), and vans, all with a higher center of gravity.

Trailer trucks — which carry cargo in a trailer attached to a vehicle’s cab — are also prone to rollovers. If the rear slips out, it can cause a driver to lose control and compromise the truck’s balance, leading it to tip over.

According to the 2020 Fatality Facts report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), rollover crashes accounted for 41% of fatalities in pick-up trucks and 40% of deaths in SUVs.

But while the data supports that truck and SUV drivers are more at risk of dying in a rollover crash, that doesn’t mean car rollover fatalities don’t happen. In 2020, rollovers made up 22% of total car accident fatalities.

So now we know that cars, trucks, and SUVs are all susceptible to rolling over and that rollovers happen in single and multi-vehicle accidents, but what factors contribute to these collisions?

How Do Rollover Accidents Happen?

While rollover accidents happen in many ways, they typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Tripped rollovers
  • Untripped rollovers
  • Rollovers caused by an auto defect.

Tripped Rollover Accidents

Tripped rollovers happen when a vehicle hits a force that “trips” it up. Just like you can catch your foot on the side of the road and trip over, cars, trucks, and other vehicles can do the same. These tripping forces can range from a curb or roadside shoulder to potholes protruding from the road.

Due to the nature of tripped rollover accidents, these contribute more to single-vehicle rollovers. They can still play a role in multi-vehicle crashes, such as if a car rolls over after hitting a pothole and crashes into an oncoming vehicle.

Untripped Rollover Accidents

Untripped rollovers typically happen to top-heavy vehicles like semi-trucks and SUVs. The common cause is driver error, such as when a driver swerves around a sharp corner at speed or jerks the steering to avoid another vehicle. This causes a sudden imbalance in the vehicle, causing it to tip over.

Rollover Accidents Caused by Auto Defects

Generally, few auto accidents are caused by auto defects, let alone rollovers specifically, but they do happen.

Examples can include:

  • A faulty tire coming loose from a vehicle, causing it to rollover
  • Defective brakes or steering columns preventing control of the vehicle, causing it to trip on a hazard (such as a pothole) and tip over
  • A defective hitch on a semi-truck, which causes the truck to jackknife and throws off the balance of the vehicle, leading to a rollover.

While these are the common categories rollover accidents fall into, there are several other ways these accidents can happen.

Multi-Vehicle Rollover Accidents

We know most rollover accidents are single-vehicle collisions, but crashes between multiple vehicles can lead to a rollover. This is often the case in side-impact and front-impact collisions.

When a vehicle strikes you from the side, the sheer force can tilt the vehicle, causing it to roll over onto its side or roof. Head-on collisions can also cause rollovers. These often happen when a vehicle is driving at high speed.

Speeding

Excessive speed is a common cause of rollover accidents. Speeding can cause multi-vehicle accidents, as detailed above, or increase the risk of a single-vehicle tripped or untripped rollover. If a car is driving at a safe or even slow speed and hits a pothole, it’ll likely still shunt the vehicle and cause a crash. When you add in speed, it becomes even more dangerous — increasing the likelihood of the vehicle lifting off the ground and tipping over.

Turning a Sharp Corner

Speeding is also a significant factor in rollover accidents caused by turning a sharp corner. If a vehicle oversteers into a corner — which causes the rear end to slide out — it can throw the balance and cause the vehicle to roll over.

However, driving while distracted or intoxicated can also cause a rollover in a tight turn. Distracted or intoxicated drivers are less likely to be able to react in time, leading to a sudden maneuver that results in a rollover.

Road Conditions

Finally, bad road conditions can also cause rollover accidents. Inclement weather conditions such as heavy snow or rain can make roads slippery. If drivers are speeding, they’re more at risk of a rollover.

What to Do If You’re in a Rollover Accident

The first thing you should do if you’re in a rollover accident is call the police. If you aren’t sure if the authorities have already been notified, make the call anyway, and a dispatcher will tell you if officers are on their way.

Rollover accidents often cause severe injuries, including broken bones, lacerations and bruising, neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal damage. These must be assessed and treated immediately, which makes it vital to seek medical help after an accident.

One question many people have after a rollover accident is whether they can claim compensation. Because the injuries sustained in rollovers are often so severe, medical costs can be extensive. Rollover accident victims can rarely get away with paying emergency room fees and taking a couple of days off work before returning to full health. Instead, they might need surgery, months or years of physical therapy, medication, follow-up appointments, and perhaps even prosthetics or mobility aids. They may need many months or years off work — or be unable to work again.

Without compensation, people injured in rollovers may struggle to pay their bills and provide for their families, and it all adds stress during an already uncertain, painful, and worrying time.

Whether or not you can claim compensation depends on who was at fault for the accident and how much their actions (or lack thereof) contributed to it.

For example, if you are in a rollover accident because you swerved to avoid a speeding vehicle, you may be able to claim compensation from the driver who was speeding.

If a pothole causes your vehicle to tip over, the party responsible for maintaining the road may be liable for your crash.

However, there’s an additional caveat — whether or not you also contributed to your accident. In some states, you cannot claim compensation if you are partially responsible for your accident. Another driver might be 99% at fault, but if you make up the remaining 1%, you won’t be able to claim. This is called contributory negligence.

In other states, you can claim compensation regardless of how much you are at fault. Even if you were 80% at fault and another driver or company was just 20% responsible, you would still be able to recover some compensation.

In Texas, the line falls somewhere in the middle. Texas has modified comparative negligence laws, which means you are entitled to claim compensation for your accident if you were responsible — but only up to a certain percentage.

If you are 51% or more liable for your accident — as determined by a jury — you cannot claim compensation from another party (or parties).

However, if you are found 50% or less responsible, you can file a claim. Your settlement amount is then reduced by your level of fault.

For example, if you are in a rollover accident because you hit a pothole but were speeding at the time, you might be partially responsible. Had you been traveling at a slower speed, the accident might not have been as severe, or you could have avoided it entirely.

If you are found to be 30% at fault and your compensation totals $100,000, you will forfeit 30% of the settlement based on your liability, leaving you with $70,000.

If you’re unsure whether or not you can claim, contact our personal injury lawyers in Texas today for a free, no-obligation case review. We’ll advise you on your chances of claiming compensation, how much you might receive, and how long your claim could take.

Our dedicated personal injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio are experienced negotiators who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve so you can move forward without worrying about how you’ll pay your bills. For a friendly chat about your accident, call 855-LAW-NINJA or fill out our contact form.

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