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Fatal 15-Passenger Van Crash in Tennessee

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A Louisiana woman was killed and 12 others were injured Monday when their 15-passenger van veered off the Interstate 75 and crashed into a guardrail, according to an article in the The Knoxville News-Sentinel. According to reports, the driver lost control of the van as he reached for a soda on the floor of the van. The accident occurred in the early morning of July 30.

Sharel Lapine, 45, was ejected from the van and pronounced dead on the scene. Her husband, Ricky Lapine, who drove the van, was also injured as were four other adults and seven children. All were taken to local hospitals. None of the injuries were life-threatening, the newspaper reported. Tennessee Highway Patrol officials also told reporters that the entire side of the 15-passenger van, which was not identified by brand, was ripped open in the crash. All the children were wearing seatbelts, but the adults were not buckled up and were ejected, officials told the News-Sentinel.

The dangers of 15-passenger vans are quite significant. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study two years ago which found 74 percent of all 15-passenger vans had tires which had not been properly inflated and as a result increased the propensity of the vehicle to become unstable or roll over – even in normal speeds, road conditions and weather conditions. Only 39 percent of passenger cars reportedly had a similar problem. The report strongly recommends all occupants to wear seatbelts because studies found that nearly 80 percent of those who died in 15-passenger van accidents between 1990 and 2003 were not buckled up.

More information is available on NHTSA’s 15-passenger van advisory page.

Also, federal law prohibits these vans from being used to transport children. To find out more about the interpretation of the federal law relating to 15-passenger vans, visit their web site.

In my mind, there is no doubt that these vans are dangerous and defective. Although this accident in Tennessee was not a rollover, it has been proven that these vans are unstable, their restraint systems are far from adequate and their roofs are unreasonably weak. There is a chance that Sharel Lapine was wearing her seat belt and there was a failure of the restraint system. Her family will need the assistance of a seat belt expert to inspect the 15-passenger van as soon as possible, if they want to look into the possibilities.

Brian Chase, who is the lead trial attorney for Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys and the President of the California Trial Lawyers Association, is one of world’s most knowledgeable attorneys when it comes to 15-passenger van plaintiffs’ cases and has the track record to prove it. He has had a successful outcome for every concluded 15-passenger van case the firm has handled. The videos of 15-passenger van rollover testing that he has participated in producing is proof enough to anyone seeing it that these are defective products and shouldn’t be on the road.

Buckle up. Sharel Lapine would be alive today if her seat belt was on and appropriately restrained her. Although her seat belt did not save her own life, maybe her death will remind you to always buckle up. Your life depends on it.

And stay out of those 15-passenger vans.

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  • Any word on what looked like a fatal van rollover on I-5 this past monday in southern Cal near rt 119?

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