Car Safety Advances: The Dodge Monaco and Side Impact Safety

his is the Second part of an Occasional Series detailing advances in automobile safety through the Civil Justice System

With the recent controversy over defective parts in Toyota automobiles, we here at Perenich The Law Firm felt it may be in order to let you know instances in the past where personal injury lawyers and car accident lawyers in our profession helped bring about important changes in car safety that were not previously regulated by the government.

A 1974 Dodge Monaco Police Car

A Dodge Advertisement for their Monaco Police Car, similar to the one driven by Mr. Dawson

Officer Richard Dawson of the Pennsauken Police Department (N.J.) was responding to a burglar alarm in 1974 when he lost control of his Dodge Monaco. In the resulting skid, the side of his car struck an unyielding steel pole, and although statements from witnesses and bystanders said that it at less than 26 miles per hour, the pole smashed through the car and crushed Mr. Dawson. The resulting injuries left him quadriplegic and in need of medical care constantly for the rest of his life.

In a court case that followed, the personal injury attorneys for Mr. Dawson argued that the design for the Dodge Monaco was defective, as it was unable to withstand impacts from the side even at relatively low speeds. The frame of the vehicle was non-continuous, as there was a 17-inch gap between the front and rear frames of the vehicle. Later evidence from the accident showed that the pole had slid down the length of the car body until it reached this gap, and then it tore through the car, resulting in the catastrophic injuries to Mr. Dawson. A continuous frame would have prevented such disastrous results.

Chrysler, the maker of the Dodge Monaco, claimed that it had no duty to make a “crash-proof” car, and indeed at the time, had followed all existing prescribed regulations. Such a frame, they said, would add $300 to the cost of the car, but the court disagreed and Chrysler was held responsible for the defective design. Thanks to the personal injury attorneys of Mr. Dawson, car manufacturers now routinely build their cars with strong continuous unibody designs that protect us, their consumers.

At Perenich The Law Firm, we are proud to be part of the same Civil Justice System that has brought protection and peace of mind to every motorist on the roads in the country and here in Clearwater and the greater Tampa Bay area. As your personal injury and car accident lawyers, we will serve you in times when corporations willfully put you and your loved ones at risk, and through our combined efforts, help create a safer society for the rest of the nation as well.

Perenich The Law Firm

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