What Are Conversion Vehicles? Are They Dangerous?
Many vehicle owners who have the financial flexibility to do so enjoy customizing their vehicles or “converting” them into repurposed vehicles. Converted vehicles can include campers fitted with captain’s chairs, vans equipped with wheelchair ramps, or any other vehicle that includes post-production alterations that change the structural nature of the vehicle. Installing a new stereo system into an old car doesn’t necessarily qualify it as a converted vehicle, but installing scissor doors or a raised roof would qualify as conversions.
Although a conversion may seem like a great purchase at first, bear in mind the effects the conversion will have on the vehicle’s safety. Different conversions may alter the way the car functions or absorbs impact during a crash, potentially endangering you and other passengers.
Safety Concerns with Converted Vehicles
When automobile manufacturers produce vehicles, they must meet strict regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, a federal law outlining the requirements of any commercially-sold motor vehicle in the United States. A vehicle manufacturer will design a vehicle to absorb the impact of a crash, and this involves the exterior paneling as well as interior structures. When people convert vehicles for customization purposes, the changes can weaken or even nullify the safety features built into these vehicles.
For example, a raised roof may feel luxurious and offer more headroom in the vehicle, but the conversion may not hold up to the same standards as the original construction. In the event of an accident, the raised roof may detach from the car, exposing the occupants to the outside or allowing them to fall out of the vehicle if it rolls over. Installing fancy doors on your car could cause them to jam in the event of a crash, trapping you inside. Unfortunately, conversion companies that perform vehicle customizations do not face the same regulations as auto manufacturers and their conversions may pose a significant safety risk.
If you converted a large van to include a fold-out bed and cabin space for a cross-country trip, it’s important to remember that it still a vehicle, not a moving living space. When the vehicle is in motion, all passengers should sit in actual vehicle seats with safety belts fastened. It’s also wise to keep in mind that converting your vehicle may void an existing warranty from the manufacturer or dealership.
Legal Options After an Injury in a Converted Vehicle
Carefully review the fine print before paying for any type of conversion on your vehicle. The conversion company may use outdated methods for performing the conversion, such as using screws to attach a new roof, and these methods may cause serious injuries in the event of a car accident. Read the agreement carefully and see if it includes any waivers or release of liability in the event of an accident. If you suffer injuries and attempt to file a lawsuit against the company, it could use your signed release or waiver against you.
If you have sustained injury in a conversion vehicle and your agreement with the company that performed the conversion included such a waiver, don’t worry too much. Working with a Birmingham personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether your accident fell within the scope of the liability release, and such releases and waivers rarely hold up in court.
If you intend to file a lawsuit after a converted vehicle injury, a Birmingham car accident attorney will help you determine whether the conversion company was negligent in the work done on your vehicle or the installation of converted parts. Although conversion companies are not beholden to the same regulations as auto manufacturers, they must still provide safe and effective products that perform as advertised and intended. When they fail in this regard, injured customers can file personal injury lawsuits to recover compensation for their losses.