A horrific car crash on US 75 North Central Expressway in Dallas left a promising young physician a quadriplegic. The flawed roof of the car in which he was a front seat passenger collapsed on his head causing a spinal cord injury. Here’s how we uncovered the safety defect that caused the catastrophic injury. The auto manufacturer settled after seeing the results of our own crash tests.
I want to talk to you today about a case called Gomez vs. Nissan Motor Company Limited. I represent a gentleman who happens to be a doctor, who was in the right-front passenger seat of a 2014 Nissan Versa. The vehicle was driving here in Dallas, Texas, and another vehicle was coming in the opposite direction and was involved in an accident. The driver of that vehicle was ejected from their vehicle, and that driver of the other vehicle contacted the hood of the 2014 Nissan Versa, then contacted the windshield, and then the driver’s body actually contacted the area of the vehicle that we call the roof header A-pillar junction. The A-pillar is missing on this vehicle, because it was removed, but the A-pillar is the structural member that holds the windshield in place.
Dr. Gomez, who was sitting with his seatbelt on coming into the accident, and when the roof tore loose, the roof actually contacted him on the top of his head, and caused his neck to flex downward, and he was rendered a quadriplegic for the remainder of his life, because he fractured his cervical spine in the neck. This is a very serious injury because he will never be able to walk again, he will clearly never be able to be a physician again, and he will never be able to carry on life as he had before the roof failed to do its part.
I was asked by another lawyer here in Dallas to evaluate the case and do a vehicle autopsy on this vehicle, by looking at all of the engineering materials that was provided by Nissan. And one of the most important aspects that we focus on is that why did the header and the A-pillar literally separate? This is the A-pillar that was removed at the scene. You will notice this member right here is the—this is a patch for the attachment bracket for the header. This separated because the welds pulled loose and then the metal tore. So one of our main assignments was to evaluate why did the roof header attachment separate from the vehicle. So what we do is we take the as-built drawings from Nissan, and we literally go through and start analyzing and evaluating every single spot weld to see, first of all, was there a spot weld present that matches up to the design drawings, did the spot weld perform its job, and if not, why didn’t it? When we did the vehicle autopsy, in a manner, we noticed that Nissan failed to have one of the critical spot welds at the same location where the material began to separate.
We then went one step further and we asked the following question: how did this vehicle perform when it was involved in a crash test where the structure of the roof was analyzed between the pillars. We wanted to see the testing that was done where an object, a pendulum device, or some object, was swung into this structural member here called the header, or was dropped into it, or was propelled into it. Amazingly, there was no testing performed at all by Nissan.
The vehicle structure that we have up top, this red, is an exemplar 2014 Nissan Versa. What we did is we created a test protocol that has been approved by the society of automotive engineers and it is a pendulum device that swings at a certain force level, at a certain speed, so that we know exactly how many foot pounds were imparted on the roof header and A-pillar junction. You’ll notice as you look at the 2014 roof header and A-pillar attachment, that it separated in the identical location in our test buck that we saw happen in Dr. Gomez’s vehicle that he was riding in when he was rendered a quadriplegic.
To determine our safer alternative design, we have to find a vehicle that was available, that was in production at the time, years before the subject vehicle was involved. We decided to use a Volvo XE90 with a moon roof. Why did we do that? Well, because if the roof structure is strong enough to withstand the forces, and not even break the glass of the moon roof, then it’s certainly going to protect the body of a human being sitting underneath the moon roof. We hooked up the 2004 Volvo XE90 and did the identical test that we did on the 2014 Nissan Versa. This is what the Versa looks like; this is what the Volvo XE90 looks like. The pendulum device that we used literally bounced off of the roof header junction. There was no separation, there were no weld failures, and most importantly, there was no injury to the occupant inside. How do we know? The glass stayed intact.
So, what does this tell us? We know for a fact that there was a vehicle that existed 10 years before our vehicle was even manufactured and sold. That vehicle had been produced on thousands of other vehicles. That vehicle was technologically feasible. It was actually cheaper. The material that they used was cheaper on the Volvo than it was on the Nissan. So why did it withstand the forces? Because instead of splicing the two attachments together with welds, they used a continuous weld seam, so that instead of having just 8 welds, they used a continuous weld—that’s number one. They also used a material called boron steel in the Volvo XE90 that Nissan does not use. And most importantly, instead of having that small little overlap, it’s a continuous piece that goes from the A-pillar all the way over to the header and instead of being spliced at about 3 inches, it’s continuous all the way across. That is the way that structure is supposed to work.
The problem that we see in these cases is that when the manufacturers design and test their vehicles to pass a laboratory test, the vehicles in the real world end up looking like this. And the people like Dr. Gomez suffer the consequences of the vehicle industry not testing for real world circumstances.
If you, a family member, or friend have suffered a traumatic car accident injury or they were killed in an auto accident, there may be grounds for a product liability lawsuit against the car maker. The victim’s or family members of the deceased person may be entitled to significantly more money in damages than just a negligence case about the cause of the accident.
The Tracy Law Firm focuses on “Who Caused The Traumatic Car Accident Injuries or Death” — not who caused the accident.
Whether you were at fault or not in the cause of the accident, car companies are required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to make vehicles that will protect the driver and passengers from catastrophic injuries or death.
Contact Todd Tracy directly to request a complimentary catastrophic accident case review at the Vehicle Safety Firm.
Or call the Tracy Firm for a consultation at 214-324-9000.
The Tracy Law Firm is a nationwide law practice dedicated to making cars safer for the public.