Most people associate motor vehicle accidents with vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents. As such, it can be easy to underestimate the severity of injuries resulting from vehicle-related product liability accidents. However, research shows that the likelihood of being involved with a product liability concern relating to your car is higher than you may think.
Though motor vehicle safety has drastically improved over the past decades, there is still a very real concern of car accidents due to vehicle defects. Ranging from everything to tire defects to seat belt defects to headlight defects, there are many ways a motor vehicle product liability concern could reach you and your family.
Motor vehicle accidents affect over two million people each year and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 44,000 of the two million car accidents reviewed in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey were largely attributed to product defects. Unfortunately, those two million people who were sent to the emergency room due to a car crash last year were the victims of not only simple human error due to other people on the road, but also of vehicle design, manufacturer, and labeling defects.
A well-known example of a vehicle defect is the concern with ignition switches on some models of certain GM cars. This defect causes the ignition switch to sometimes move from the “on” position to the “off” position, which cuts the engine abruptly and unexpectedly, disabling critical components of the vehicle, including the airbags and power steering. At least 64 deaths have been directly linked to this GM defective ignition switch.
What is vehicle defects product liability?
Vehicle defects product liability is when a part of a motor vehicle is defective, causing the vehicle to cause unexpected harm to its passengers, as well as other people who may be in or around the car. Vehicle defects may include anything from the electrical system (which may cause the driver to no longer have control over the vehicle) to the car’s brakes (causing the driver to be unable to stop the vehicle when necessary or desired) to something less serious and critical to the vehicle’s passengers, such as the radio (which may cause the passengers to be unable to control the car radio).
Product liability may include any part of a vehicle which does not work the way it should or the way it was designed to work when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
What are some common vehicle defects leading to product liability accidents?
There are three types of common vehicle defects which may lead to accidents resulting in injury or death: (1) design defects, (2) manufacturing defects and (3) labeling defects.
It is considered a design defect when a product is dangerous in and of itself due to its design. This type of defect means that the product itself is dangerous even when manufactured correctly and used appropriately by the consumer. For example, a belt wedge is a rubber buffer between the two steel belts of a tire and was created to improve the durability of tires. This belt wedge prevents the steel belts from rubbing together, which has the potential to cause the detachment of the belt. If the belt wedge was designed in a way which causes the wedge to be unable to decrease the strain placed on the steel belts, the stress and heat from the steel belts rubbing against one another can place the tire at risk of failure.
A manufacturing defect is the most common basis of product liability claims. This is when a product is created in a way which causes the product to become unsafe, even though the design itself is completely safe when used appropriately. For example, consider a set of tires. Tires are designed to support the full weight of the vehicle, resist common wear and tear due to use, and are considered a safe product. However, if a mistake occurred during the manufacturing process, such as dust getting into the glue used to hold the tire together, it may cause a serious defect in the tire. Often, this small mistake causes the tire to fall apart, resulting in serious and even fatal motor vehicle accidents.
A labeling defect is when a product has the potential to be inherently dangerous, even when used appropriately and in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines, and the manufacturer of the product fails to adhere to its legal duty to appropriately warn consumers of the potential danger of the product. For example, airbags have the potential to be inherently dangerous due to the force exerted during airbag deployment. This is why vehicle manufacturers are required to place a label regarding the possible dangers of the airbag, as well as the potential injuries a person may sustain while sitting in the front seat where an airbag is present. These labels also commonly have an age suggestion guideline for any person sitting in the front seat of a vehicle based on what age a person is most commonly able to adequately and safely withstand the force of the airbag should it be deployed.
Some of the most common vehicle defects affect the engine, brakes, fuel systems, electrical systems, tires and wheels, and even the actual body and frame.
What are the most common injuries resulting from accidents due to vehicle defects?
Accidents due to motor vehicle defects, such as defects involving airbags, ignition switches, brakes, tires, and fuel systems, may result in serious injury, including:
- Scrapes and cuts
- Concussions and other head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord damage and injury
Who may be held responsible for vehicle defects which lead to injury or death in an accident?
To encourage a greater focus on product safety and ensure better protocols to protect motor vehicle consumers and users, liability for vehicle defects has been increasingly imposed on motor vehicle designers, manufacturers, and sellers. As these parties and consumers learn more about possible vehicle defects, society can begin to learn from past mistakes to move forward toward a safer future regarding motor vehicles.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an automobile accident due to a vehicle defect, there may be several people or entities which can be held responsible in a claim. Potential defendants in this type of claim may include:
- The manufacturers of the defective vehicle part
- The car dealership where the vehicle was purchased
- An auto supply shop where the defective part was purchased
- The shipper of the vehicle or vehicle part.
The process for deciding which party is liable for each claim is largely dependent upon several factors. For example, which part has proven defective, whether the vehicle’s inherent design was defective, and who was ultimately responsible for the defect.
Clearly, if the steering wheel was defective, the tire manufacturer would not be held responsible. If the design of the vehicle itself was defective, the manufacturers would not be held responsible for simply following the design, because understanding what is and is not defective on a design level would be outside the scope of expertise for a manufacturer. However, even if the manufacturer created a product which was found to be defective but was discovered that the defect was caused by the way it was shipped, the liability would be transferred from the manufacturer to the shipping company.
How do you prove who should be held liable for the vehicle product defect?
Since there are so many people, companies, and entities which may be held responsible for a vehicle defect, it is important to understand how liability can be proven. One of the following three conditions must be met in order to prove liability:
- The vehicle itself or one of its integral components must be proven to be “unreasonably dangerous” when used appropriately or within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- The detected defect must be proven to have led to injuries or death while the vehicle and its parts were being used in a reasonable and intended manner.
- The defect was inherently present in the vehicle or one of its parts without being substantially changed or altered, thereby negatively impacting the product’s performance.
A products liability lawyer will be able to assist you in deciding which company should be held responsible for your injury in your case by examining evidence, such as:
- The vehicle and its part which you have detected as defective
- Your injury, or photos of your injury
- Eyewitness testimony
- The scene of the accident, or other information regarding the scene such as photos and police reports
- Vehicle reports from an inspector or repair shop
- Expert testimony
I have been injured due to a vehicle defect. What do I do next?
If you have been injured due to a vehicle defect, it is imperative that you seek the legal advice of a competent car accident lawyer. By hiring a knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate lawyer, you are giving yourself and your family the best possible chance of being properly compensated following the tragedy of an injury or death due to a defective motor vehicle or integral part of a vehicle. He or she will be able to advise about whether you have a viable case and will be able to work on your behalf to bring about the best possible outcome.
Legal Counsel You Can Trust
At The Lowenberg Law Firm, our legal team has ample experience working with products liability claims and our clients are always our top priority. Navigating the process of filing a claim and pursuing a personal injury lawsuit can be a stressful and confusing task, especially if you have never done it before. The stress of that process combined with the pain commonly experienced after a car accident can easily and quickly compound into an overwhelming fear that you will never get the assistance you deserve to adequately follow through with the lawsuit you have begun.
While obtaining maximum recovery from a motor vehicle accident can be challenging on your own, it is possible with Lowenberg Law Firm by your side. Our personal injury attorneys have been providing trusted legal assistance to personal injury victims for nearly two decades and we are confident that we will be able to achieve the best possible outcome of your claim as well.
We know how to help you build a strong case against the entity who is at fault for your vehicle defect and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights every step of the way. When you choose to work with us, our legal team will meet with you to discuss the specifics of your case, answer any questions you may have, and pursue justice for you and your family with a standard of excellence.
Have you or a loved one been injured due to an accident caused by a motor vehicle defect? Contact The Lowenberg Law Firm for a consultation of your case at (832) 761-9306 today or contact us online.