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Preventing leg injuries from auto accidents

July 29, 2008 by Steven M. Gursten

Our accident lawyers often write and speak about the unreasonably difficult threshold law that exists in Michigan, which bars many residents who are seriously injured in car accidents from recovering money for their pain and suffering. But lawyers rarely discuss the role that automobile safety standards play in injury cases, or the misleading safety standards that apply for people who suffer life-changing injuries in simple frontal impact collisions.

Debilitating leg injuries from frontal impact automobile accidents

Many people suffer debilitating leg injuries from automobile accidents, most involving frontal impact collisions with cars and trucks. These leg injuries range from cases involving total knee replacement surgery to quadriceps tendon repair and even leg amputations, where an accident victim may never walk again.

What’s surprising is that the people who suffer such serious leg injuries could have been driving a car with a five-star safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a car with a much lower safety rating — and still sustain the exact same leg injuries following an automobile accident.

That’s because under its current guidelines, NHTSA does not base a vehicle’s safety rating on the risk of leg injuries. So the federal government may consider a car or truck completely safe, even though it has little or no protection in the event of a frontal impact crash. Therefore, people who are safety conscious are buying cars that are advertised as safe, with five-star safety ratings by NHTSA, not knowing that any frontal impact auto accident could leave its occupants seriously injured or disabled for life.

In fact, NHTSA currently gives virtually every new car four- or five-star safety ratings, which are the highest safety scores available. Despite these high scores, each year our automobile accident attorneys see countless examples of severe traumatic injuries and deaths caused by frontal impacts with cars lacking sufficient frontal impact safety protections.

New automobile crash test safety guidelines

These inadequate, misleading, and largely irrelevant safety ratings will change, however, starting with the 2010 model year. Under new guidelines, NHTSA will assess the risk of leg, hip and knee injuries when testing and rating vehicles. The revised guidelines will also include new front-end tests, a “pole test” in which a vehicle strikes a pole sideways, and will incorporate female crash test dummies.

As lawyers who help the public after serious automobile accidents, we hope that with these new safety standards in place, automobile manufacturers will be forced to design cars with better protection for drivers and passengers, and that consumers will increase this pressure by paying attention to safety ratings and purchasing cars that offer the best protection.

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