Integrating Engineering Principles into the Medico-legal Investigation of a Rare Fatal Rollover Car Accident Involving Complex Dynamics

Rollover car accidents can be the result of forceful steering or hitting an obstacle that acts like a ramp. Mortality from this type of car accident is particularly high, especially when occupants are thrown out of the vehicle. The authors report a case of a 67-year-old man who died after a rollover accident that occurred when the man was driving a car equipped with a glass moonroof. The man was found inside his car with his safety belt correctly fastened and the roof shattered. At autopsy, a wide avulsion injury of the head was observed, which was associated with an atlanto-axial dislocation and full-thickness fracture of the cervical body and posterior facet joints of the seventh cervical vertebra. The data collected at the scene of the accident were integrated with the autopsy results to yield a forensic engineering reconstruction. This reconstruction elucidated the dynamics of the event and correctly ascribed the lesions observed at autopsy to the phases of the rollover. Afterward, an analysis of the scientific literature concerning rollover crash tests was conducted to understand why the driver sustained fatal injuries even though his seatbelt was properly fastened.


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  • Accession Number: 01611193
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 2 2016 2:31PM