If a traffic accident that injures or kills drivers and passengers could have been prevented long before the accident took place, is it right to still call it an accident? If a design flaw causes a vehicle to roll over after a tire blows out or when a driver makes a sudden turn for whatever reason, and the people who designed the vehicle knew this could happen, is it the driver or the designer who is responsible for the crash?
Portland rollover accidents have had a worrying tendency to involve certain makes and models – and the people who designed these vehicles have known for more than two decades of the car’s potential to roll over in even relatively minor accidents.
From Bronco to Explorer
For more than a quarter of a century, going back to the March 1983 introduction of The Bronco II by Ford, which was the predecessor of the current Explorer range, there have been a mounting array of alarming facts relating to Ford Explorer rollover accidents. Even more worryingly, there are still thousands of Ford Explorers of various ages on Oregon roads with documented stability problems. Across the country, the figure runs to millions, and the accidents just keep on coming. In the last month alone, for example:
- A Kentucky teen driving a 2000 Explorer veered off the road. The SUV rolled over, and the 16-year-old ended up in the hospital.
- A 23-year-old Maine driver was in his Explorer when it hit a patch of black ice. The driver lost control, but instead of just skidding, the Explorer rolled over and ended up in a ditch.
- In Texas, a rear tire blew out in a 1996 Explorer, and once again, the Explorer rolled. In this case, Ronald Hood, 55, was killed, and his passenger, a 50-year-old woman, was seriously injured.
- Three people were hospitalized in Connecticut when their 2010 Explorer Hybrid on I-95 went out of control for reasons as yet unknown, and the SUV rolled onto its side.
Who knew? Well, Ford evidently did.
As far back as 1983, even before the launch of the Bronco II, Ford’s own engineers were flipping the vehicles over in test drives. What is perhaps the most worrying thing of all is that the engineers told Ford that they knew how to fix the problem. They wanted to widen the vehicle by two inches, but management decided that doing so would delay the March launch date. They went ahead with the release of a vehicle they knew to be inherently unstable, and which the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated “the most deadly SUV on the road.”
In Portland rollover accidents involving Ford Explorers, the courts are increasingly taking the view that the manufacturer is responsible for some of the horrific injuries, including paralysis and brain damage; and the deaths of the people who have been inside one of these vehicles when they crash.
When the Ford Explorer came along as a natural descendant of the Bronco II, many industry specialists assumed the company would correct the design flaws in the Bronco that made it so prone to rolling over in a crash. The Explorer was portrayed as a car for the entire family. Surely, the problems had been solved and things would get better.
They got worse.
An internal Ford memo in 1987 said the stability of the new Explorer prototype was worse than the Bronco II and again recommended widening the vehicle. Alarmed executives were told that in driving tests, the new SUV repeatedly tipped off the ground. Cheap fixes were tried, including changing tire pressure and suspension settings, but these did little to make the vehicle more stable. In the end, Ford was told they’d have to widen the vehicle by the same two inches that had been recommended in 1983. Again, Ford decided the fix would be too expensive to wait for the fix to be implemented into design and production, and again they launched a vehicle onto an unsuspecting marketplace that they knew to be dangerously unstable.
After doing business with Ford for the better part of a century, Firestone ended its relationship with the motor giant, and the reasons were directly related to the Ford Explorer. Firestone’s chairman, John Lampe, wrote to Ford, saying in part, “Our analysis suggests that there are significant safety issues with…Ford Explorers. We have made your staff aware of our concerns, (but) they have steadfastly refused to acknowledge those issues. I am informing you that Bridgestone/Firestone is ending its tire supply relationship with Ford Motor Company.” Lampe later testified to the U.S. Congress, “There is something wrong with the Ford Explorer. The testing and…data we have submitted prove it.”
Ford Finally Fixed the Problem But Lost Several $Million First
Ford finally decided to widen the Explorer in 2002, after almost two decades of stability problems, constant rollover crashes and countless injuries and fatalities. Ford, of course, said that widening the vehicle had nothing to do with stability problems. The courts appear to be taking a different view. In Portland rollover accidents involving late model Ford Explorers, juries are more and more holding Ford accountable for the damages caused to people and property. In fact, right across the country, Ford is paying out millions in damages that relate directly to rollover “accidents” involving their Explorers. In 2009, the company lost four vehicle defect cases where the award to the plaintiff was $10 million or more. In 2010, a California woman was awarded more than $23 million after she was paralyzed when her Explorer lost stability, rolled over and crashed.
Of course it’s not just Ford Explorers that roll over in accidents. Other vehicles suffer stability problems, and the result is too often serious injury or death for those inside. Portland rollover accident attorneys think that putting unsafe vehicles into the marketplace is inexcusable, and the manufacturers of those vehicles should be held accountable. If you’ve been involved in a rollover accident, contact a Portland personal injury attorney with experience in rollover crashes. They will work hard to ensure those who are responsible for your accident are made to pay for their negligence. What’s more, competent and experienced personal injury attorneys are not afraid to take on the large corporations, especially when it can be proven those corporations knew they were selling an unsafe product.