Last night, Tuesday, February 26, 2013, a 15-passenger van rolled over on a Pennsylvania highway, striking a tree. Initial police reports indicate that the vehicle was carrying fifteen occupants, and crashed just after 8:00 p.m. on Interstate 380 North. Driving conditions were said to have turned treacherous, with the onset of freezing rain. At least one occupant of the vehicle was pronounced dead, and others were transported to the nearby Geisinger Medical Center. Our hearts and prayers are extended to the victims and their families, and we ask that anyone who has further information report it to us.
While many will attempt to point the finger at the driver, this accident was likely caused by deadly, but not uncommon, combination: a vehicle with serious design flaws and hazardous road conditions. Indeed, the 15-passenger van may be one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road, when fully loaded. Design defects on these vans include a high center of gravity, which has long been known to increase the possibility of rollover, and stadium seating, in which seats are placed at graduated heights. The rear of the vehicle extends up to four feet beyond the rear wheels , a feature that increases the possibility of ‘fishtailing,’ or sliding from side to side, if the van loses traction on an icy road surface.
The National Transportation Safety Board is fully aware that vans overturn more than 50 percent of the time when involved in single vehicle crashes. Indeed, 81% of all fatalities in 15-passenger van crashes occur in single vehicle crash rollovers. A 15-passenger van carrying 15 people and overloaded with cargo has a 70% greater chance of being involved in a rollover accident than any another vehicle on the road.
The 15-passenger van has been deemed so unsafe that many churches, schools—in addition to the military— have totally banned them as a means for transportation. There are currently in excess of a half million 15-passenger vans registered in the United States. 85% are listed as Ford Econoline Club E-350 and Dodge B-350/3500.
NHTSA has gone so far as to recommend that the drivers of these vans need a commercial driver’s license. A fully loaded 15-passenger van requires special driving skills and, unless an individual has been properly trained in how to drive them safely under various road conditions, and learned special accident avoidance maneuvers, an accident can likely occur in such conditions.
We have investigated and prosecuted cases where dozens of victims have been killed or catastrophically injured in 15-passenger and SUV rollover crashes. We understand how and why life-altering injuries and deaths can occur as a result of design defects—drastically altering the hopes and dreams of innocent victims and their families.
Victims and their families involved in a 15-passenger van accident should contact an experienced 15-passenger van rollover lawyer with a track record of beating automobile manufacturers in court. The successful prosecution of 15-passenger van accident cases requires experience, skillful investigation, and immediate action, to avoid non-spoliation of evidence. 15-passenger van rollover cases are high-stakes, complicated cases to litigate, and require special expertise.
The 15-passenger van rollover and SUV rollover attorneys of Reiff and Bily have been recognized by their peers as having the highest possible rating in both legal abilities and ethical standards, and are consistently recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and are members of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Attorneys. Our skilled 15-passenger van and SUV rollover always offer a free, no obligation consultation.