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The “crashworthiness” of a vehicle is a measure of the protection the vehicle provides to its driver and its passengers during an accident or collision. Auto manufacturers have a duty to build and design vehicles that can sustain foreseeable types of accidents and protect the driver and passengers from unnecessary harm.

Crashworthiness refers to the adequacy of certain vehicle design and safety elements such as seat belts, air bags, roofs, side-impact protection, crumple zones, headrests, interior padding and roll bars. These safety features are meant to protect occupants in a crash by preventing or delaying their impact with other solid objects, reducing the damaging effect of the inertial forces that accompany an accident, preventing occupant ejection, reducing the risk of fires, etc.

Defects in the design or manufacture of the vehicle or its safety-related component parts will dramatically reduce its crashworthiness. When multiple components of a vehicle’s safety system fail in a single incident, the consequences can be deadly. An example of such a “vehicle system failure” would be when a stability defect causes a rollover accident and because the roof of the vehicle was defectively weak, it is crushed under vehicle’s own weight. This scenario, known as a “roof crush” accident, can be made even more devastating or deadly if the vehicle’s air bags or seat belts failed to function properly.

A vehicle’s safety components must work together in order to protect vehicle occupants from the destructive forces involved in an accident, and they must all work properly. When they don’t, people suffer unnecessarily severe personal injuries and die.

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