An automotive engineering expert witness discusses side airbag safety systems in a double fatality car accident. The victims were traveling in a ten-year-old truck along a rural highway at 2 a.m. when a vehicle coming the opposite direction at high speed crossed the center line, striking the driver’s side front fender of their truck. The impact caused the truck to lift into the air. The other car then struck the left rear wheel with enough force to dislodge the axle. The truck then flipped onto the driver’s side and onto the truck occupants who had been thrown from the driver’s window.
Families of the two victims sued the other driver and the manufacturer of the truck for negligence and wrongful death. Against the manufacturer, the plaintiffs allege that the ejection was the primary cause of the deaths and that they could have been prevented if the truck had been equipped with safety features such as a side curtain air bag and window glazing, both of which were available as early as five years before the truck was manufactured.
The family of the passenger victim also sued the truck driver for negligence, as he had been drinking and should have avoided the collision.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Did similar vehicles at the time incorporate side curtain airbags?
- 2. Could the truck in this case have included such a safety feature?
Expert Witness Response
After comparing vehicles by other manufacturers with similar pillar and roof structures, I conclude there is no reason that the vehicle at issue could not have been equipped with a side airbag inflatable curtain (SABIC) system. Other vehicles produced by the truck manufacturer were equipped with inflatable tubular stricter (ITS) system. Testing on those vehicles two years before the truck in this case was produced documented the ejection mitigation value of the ITS. The testing was performed with unrestrained occupants. There were no ejections in the roll over testing. Computer modeling demonstrated without the ITS system, the occupants would have been ejected. This confirms that this ITS system could have been installed on the subject truck, was tested, and proven to prevent the ejection of unrestrained occupants in a similar platform.
The expert was involved in designing, testing, and manufacturing SABIC air bags for competing manufacturers.