Spontaneously Shattering Sunroofs a Growing, Dangerous Menace

Categories: Accidents

Sun Roof Defect

Two United States senators last month put pressure on auto manufacturers to provide answers and transparency about injuries that have resulted from sunroofs that shatter for no apparent reason.

A letter to CEOs of auto manufacturers that make products for the U.S. market was sent by Senators Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, and Edward Markey, of Massachusetts. The letter asked detailed questions about the design, defects and materials used in their sunroofs. They requested answers no later than Dec. 4.

The problem of spontaneously shattering sunroofs has been a growing problem in recent years. Consumer Reports published a story in October about suddenly shattering sunroofs that led to driver and passenger injuries. The report detailed 859 accounts of reports to the NHTSA from vehicle owners about sunroof shattering problems. The defect affected 35 vehicle brands and 208 models.

Consumer Reports added that the problems seem to have escalated in recent times with the growth of large, panoramic sunroofs. These expansive sunroofs have become more and more popular; as of 2011, at least 33% of vehicles sold in the U.S. had a sunroof, many of them of the panoramic variety.

Consumer Reports noted that the following car brands have had the most reports of spontaneously shattering sunroofs from 1995-2017:

  • Hyundai: 119
  • Ford: 85
  • Nissan: 82
  • Kia: 78
  • Scion: 72
  • Toyota: 61
  • Honda: 53
  • VW: 38
  • Cadillac: 28
  • BMW: 27.

Why Would A Sunroof Shatter?

Auto manufacturers, glass suppliers and mechanical engineers have offered various theories as to why sunroofs may shatter suddenly and spray drivers and passengers with dangerous glass shards.

In a recent Volkswagen recall, extreme temperature fluctuations were blamed. Some engineers in other recalls have theorized that the problem could be because of flaws in the glass, either before or after the sunroof was manufactured. Others believe that as the body of the car flexes and bends during use, it may put pressure on the sunroof to the point that it explodes.

Some auto manufacturers have claimed that some sunroofs may shatter when hit by rocks and other debris. However, UC Berkeley engineer Tarek Zohdi has said this claim is highly questionable. Zohdi said in a TV interview in San Francisco that a rock thrown into the air by a tire running over it on the road would have to be 10-15 feet in the air and fall at more than 70 mph to shatter a sunroof. He claimed that there is no chance that a rock thrown up in the air by a car tire could break a sunroof. Zohdi believes that most of these cases are due to a manufacturer’s defect.

Shattering Sunroof Injuries

If a sunroof explodes, drivers and passengers could be seriously injured. Shattered glass can cause cuts as it falls. It also can enter the mouth or eyes and lead to serious internal injuries. The sunroof also will produce a loud bang when it breaks, which can distract the driver and lead to an accident. A person who has suffered injuries and damages from a shattered sunroof could have a valid personal injury claim.

Neale & Fhima Personal Injury Lawyers in Southern California

If your sunroof spontaneously shattered and injured you or a loved one, Neale & Fhima may be able to help. We are a product defect and personal injury law firm serving Southern California, with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. Our personal injury attorneys will review your product defect case at no cost to you. Please call 949-661-1007. You also can complete the contact form below and we will get in touch with you shortly.