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The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic American muscle cars—but it can also be one of the deadliest. In 2016, 19-year-old Breanna Bumgarner was killed following an accident in her Mustang. Per the lawsuit, a pickup truck crossed the center line and hit Ms. Bumgarner’s car. The young woman was trapped in her vehicle and perished from the resulting car fire. Now, Ford is paying restitution to the family to the tune of $7,000,000 after the fatal Mustang crash.

Ford found to be at fault for a defective design

In a West Virginia court earlier this month, a Kanawha County jury found Ford Motor Co. to be at fault for the victim’s death. The suit alleges that poor design and improper crash testing caused the fatality—not the crash itself. 

The 1989 Toyota pickup truck struck the 2014 Ford Mustang at 59 mph, crashing into the Mustang’s A-pillar. Because of the way the car was damaged, Ms. Bumgarner could not escape from the vehicle. In any other case, she may have survived. However, the accident allegedly started a fire caused by a leaking, damaged brake fluid line.

The jury found Ford to be 99% at fault—while the other driver received only 1% of the blame.

How safe is a Mustang?

A crash-test dummy sits in the passenger side of an unlabeled vehicle. The Ford Mustang crash test ratings are less than ideal.
Crash testing | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Are Mustangs known for crashing? There isn’t much data to prove whether Mustangs are more dangerous than any other muscle car or sports sedan. This car has to pass the same crash testing that other vehicles do, so in theory, it is safe. However, there have been several Ford Mustang problems over the years. 

In addition, crash testing only looks at a few specific types of crashes in a controlled environment. It’s impossible to test a car in every conceivable type of accident. However, the plaintiff alleges that significant design flaws are at fault for the fatality—and in this case, the jury agreed.

The case brings up concerns over Mustang crash tests

The 2014 Ford Mustang crash test rating was a four out of five possible stars, which would typically indicate that it’s a well-built and safe sports car. However, the tragic crash in 2016 may prove otherwise. 

According to Road & Track, “the plaintiff alleged the car’s brake fluid reservoir was not sufficiently protected from the impact, and that it was what led to the fire happening in the first place.” The lawsuit also claimed that the fluid reservoir and the dashboard could breach the cabin in the event of an accident. 

The plaintiff pinned the blame on a poor Ford Mustang small overlap rigid barrier test—a specific type of crash test that would typically affect the A-pillar. However, Ford’s lawyers disagreed.

“This accident has nothing to do with that test … [the] small overlap barrier test does not occur at 40 degrees into the side of a vehicle. It’s not a vehicle-to-vehicle test. The barrier itself is the equivalent of a pole being struck by a car right at the corner of a vehicle. That’s not [this] accident.”

James Feeney, Ford lawyer

Ford will appeal the decision in the Mustang crash court case

Grille of a silver Ford Mustang
Ford Mustang grille | Ford

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A company spokesperson expressed the company’s deepest sympathies for the victim’s family and claimed to respect the decision of the jury but said Ford Motor Co. would be seeking an appeal.

Whether Ford was actually close to entirely at fault for an accident caused by a third-party driver or not, it should give shoppers pause when looking at used Mustangs.