Personal Injury

Senate supports roof crush liability

A U.S. Senate panel recommended Wednesday that a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal on vehicle roof strength requirements be amended so that it does not limit the ability of plaintiffs to sue automakers in roof crush cases, according to an Associated Press report.

The NHTSA proposal to upgrade Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 216 (FMVSS 216) would require that a roof withstand an applied force equal to 2.5 times the vehicle’s weight while maintaining sufficient headroom for an average size adult male. The current standard is 1.5 times the vehicle’s weight. Consumer groups, led by the People Safe in Rollovers Foundation, call for an even stronger standard of 3.5 times the vehicle’s weight.

People Safe in Rollovers Foundation is opposed to the NHTSA proposed standard because they believe it will not protect from the crushing of the roof into the occupant’s survival space in the event of a rollover accident, yet would protect automobile manufacturers from liability in the event of a roof crush injury or death, if the car were manufactured according to this standard.

The AP reports Democratic Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Claire McCaskill of Missouri warned agency officials during the Wednesday hearing that Congress would oppose restrictions to plaintiffs seeking access to state courts in lawsuits over vehicle rollovers.

An official with the NHTSA told the committee the plan still is under review.