In a recent small overlap crash test of 11 subcompact and mini cars conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only one, the Chevrolet Spark, performed commendably, earning a rating of “Acceptable,” as well as the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick award.
The small overlap test involves a vehicle hitting a barrier at 40 miles an hour with only one-quarter of its front bumper. The impact occurs just in front of the driver’s seat, concentrating the force in a small area outside of the strong crash safety structures that have become staples of most new vehicles. According to the IIHS, about a quarter of real-world car crashes are caused by similar impacts.
Six of the other 10 cars earned the IIHS’s lowest rating of “Poor”: the Chrysler Group’s Fiat 500, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Prius c. Out of these six, the Fit and the Fiat 500 performed the worst, with the occupant compartment crushed in, the steering pushed back toward the driver, and injuries determined likely to occur in both of the driver’s legs, not just one. Placing a step up with the Institute’s slightly higher rating of “Marginal” were the remaining four cars: the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Mazda 2, and Toyota Yaris. None of the cars earned the IIHS’s highest rating of “Good.”
While frontal crash tests like this one provide a fair indication of how a car will perform in a crash with a similarly-sized vehicle, many real-world crashes involving small cars will most likely involve larger vehicles, injuring occupants in the smaller vehicles to a much greater degree. “These cars have an inherent safety disadvantage in many kinds of crashes,” IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said.
We all expect our vehicle to provide protection in the event of a wreck, but we don’t expect the vehicle to make our injuries worse. Texas law recognizes a claim for design defect when a product’s design is a producing cause of personal injury, property damage or death, and at the time the product was manufactured, a safer alternative design was economically and technologically feasible and would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of the personal injury, property damage or death without substantially impairing the products’ utility (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 82.005).
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If you believe that a vehicle or other product caused an injury or made an injury worse, it is critical that the vehicle or product be preserved. Design defect cases require expert testimony to prove the design defect and the connection between the defect and the injury. The expert must be able to inspect the vehicle. Don’t let your insurance company destroy or dispose of the vehicle until you have contacted an attorney about your situation.