Sunroofs Continue to Be a Concern for Motorists, Liability for Automakers

Sunroofs Continue to Be a Concern for Motorists, Liability for Automakers

June 5th, 2018 by Guajardo & Marks, LLP

In many auto product defect cases, it is common to win lawsuits against the auto manufacturer or the maker of the defective product if that product led to injury or death in an accident. But in the case of sunroof liabilty, this does not always happen.

The New York Times reported last February about a tragic car accident where an 18-year-old woman was thrown through the closed sunroof of her SUV during a rollover crash. The woman became paralyzed.

Her family filed a product defect lawsuit against Ford, alleging the automaker had not adhered to required safety standards. But the family was devastated when Ford won the case. The reason? There are no government regulations that require a sunroof – even one that is fully closed – to keep a person in the vehicle during a wreck.

More than 12 years after that tragic wreck, there still are no government mandates in place that could prevent hundreds of sunroof ejections annually. This is problematic because sunroofs are becoming more popular as manufacturers are adding the devices to more vehicles and making them bigger than ever.

Some automakers are now using laminated safety glass in their sunroofs that could reduce the number of ejections during a rollover. Also, a new test by the NHTSA could suggest that the U.S. government will soon formulate rules regulating sunroof performance in an accident.

Sunroofs Exploding in Popularity, With Dangers Often Unknown to Motorists

It is estimated that seven million 2017 vehicles in the U.S. came with sunroofs, which is almost 40% of the new vehicle market. Only 33% came so equipped in 2011.

Crash data is not current, but is still alarming. Approximately 300 people died and 1,400 were injured annually from 1997 to 2008 from sunroof ejections in a crash. These often-deadly accidents happened whether the unit was open or closed. The NHTSA also found that, from 2002 to 2012, approximately 230 people died and 500 were injured in sunroof accidents.

Ford Lawsuit Involved Cheaper Tempered Glass

In the abovementioned accident highlighted in the New York Times, the accident victim has no memory of the wreck. But evidence after the incident showed that when her SUV rolled, the glass sunroof panel popped out and she was ejected through the opening.

In the lawsuit, her attorneys argued that the automaker should have used laminated safety glass and more securely anchored the glass. The lawyers added that Ford had known for years that laminated glass is safer, but cheaper tempered glass was used. Ford argued that serious brain and neck trauma could occur if someone’s head smashed into laminated glass in a crash. Ford concluded that the head trauma danger was greater than ejection. Ford also argued that the woman was not wearing her seat belt, but she denied this claim. Research has shown that a partial sunroof ejection is still possible in a violent crash even if the victim is wearing a seatbelt.

Safety advocates argue that the sunroof problem causes 200-300 deaths per year, which is enough to indicate a deadly problem that should be addressed by federal oversight. This has not occurred yet, but hopefully it will happen soon, before more people die or are injured in these preventable tragedies.

Were You Injured By Your Sunroof? Talk to a Dallas Personal Injury Attorney Today

While most of us enjoy the convenience of sunroofs in our vehicles, if you are in an accident, you could be ejected from the vehicle. It is alarming that complete ejections could be largely eliminated with the use of laminated glass, but many manufacturers continue to use less expensive tempered glass.  The auto accident attorneys at Guajardo & Marks can review your sunroof accident case at no cost to determine if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. Please contact our Dallas office today for a free consultation.