When is a vehicle manufacturer liable after a car accident?
If you have been involved in a serious car accident, you may be wondering who was at fault. Usually, the assumption may be that it was one of the drivers of the vehicles involved in the wreck. However, that may not always be the case. If there was a flaw in the car that caused the wreck, the car manufacturer may be able to be held liable for the resulting damages.
When you buy a new car (or at least one that’s new to you), you expect it to be safely designed and manufactured, but unfortunately, that may not always be the case. Vehicles may have been released before enough safety testing has been performed, or they may have been poorly designed, or even built with parts that aren’t always reliable.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 90% of car accidents are caused by drivers making dangerous choices or mistakes behind the wheel. But in some cases, one of the vehicles in the wreck could have a manufacturing defect. If that is the case, then the car manufacturer may have legal liability for the victim’s injuries. In these cases, it helps to speak with a Tampa defective products lawyer to learn about recent recalls and other factors that may indicate the manufacturer of your vehicle (or its key parts) is liable in part or in full for your crash damages.
What Safety Obligations Do Vehicle Manufacturers Have?
Vehicles are held to high safety standards. Every vehicle manufactured and sold is expected to uphold a high standard of safety. However, unfortunately, it is not always the case that vehicles released to the public meet all safety standards. If manufacturers are rushing to get a new vehicle on the market, they may rush through the design and testing process, which could cause safety issues for those on the road. Further, they may make decisions about which parts to use or how to actually build the vehicle that leads to serious safety risks.
Though car manufacturers are required to report any reported defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five days of receiving notice, this diligence doesn’t always happen. Recalls can be costly and time-consuming, so, unfortunately, companies may wait until many injuries and accidents have already been caused to order a recall.
We see evidence of an inability or unwillingness to comply with these regulations all the time. Airbag manufacturer Takata in combination with Honda motors has had to pay over $85 million in fines, charged in part because of a lack of transparency around car manufacturing defects. In 2012, Toyota settled a class-action lawsuit for over $1 billion in regards to recalls. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recalled over 390 million vehicles due to safety defects.
When Is a Vehicle Manufacturer Liable After a Car Accident?
If a defective product fails and causes injury, victims are lawfully allowed to sue the designers and manufacturers of those defective products.
There are generally three categories of product defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, and warning/marketing defects are the three main categories into which defects will typically fall.
Design defects refer to when the product is designed in such a way that it becomes dangerous to use for its intended use.
Manufacturing defects occur when the product is safely designed, but substandard manufacturing causes it to become dangerous to use.
Warning or label defects occur when both the design and manufacturing are done safely, but the product fails to warn the consumers about any inherent risks or danger when using the product as intended. There are also similar defects related to marketing, where the messages used to advertise the vehicle imply that a certain use, such as offroading, can be done safely when this is generally not the case.
What Are Common Types of Vehicle Defects?
Though vehicles and vehicle parts are required to go through rigorous safety testing before they are introduced to the market, occasionally there can be times when something is overlooked or slips through the cracks.
Vehicles and parts made for those vehicles can have safety defects just as many other products do. Here are some of the common defects that can affect the safety of your vehicle:
- Steering Defects — A driver could lose control of their vehicle and cause an accident if there are safety defects in any part of the steering system, including the steering column, hydraulics, power steering, or steering wiring system.
- Fuel System Defects — In the event of a crash, if there are issues with the fuel pump, gas tank, or fuel filtration system, a fire can be more likely to occur, which can lead to burns or explosions. Mazda issued a recall on thousands of their vehicles in 2017 due to a fuel system issue.
- Tire Defects — Even though tires are not a mechanical part of your vehicle, they still play an integral part in keeping you safe on the road. When working properly, tires transmit traction and allow you to brake, among other important things. However, when tires are defective, it can lead to tire blowouts and other issues on the road that may cause the driver to lose control over their vehicle, which can lead to crashes, property damage, and injuries for those involved.
- Airbag Defects — Though airbags are now an essential safety feature in vehicles, if they do not work properly, they can cause more harm than good. When an airbag is functioning as it should, it can protect the passengers in the vehicles from incurring serious injuries in the event of a wreck. Unfortunately, issues with airbags are not uncommon. Recently, there was a major recall of over 70 million vehicles due to issues with airbag defects.
- Seatbelts — As with airbags, seatbelts are another essential safety component of all vehicles. When designed and manufactured properly, seatbelts save many lives every year. However, if they are defective, they can cause injury in the event of a crash and can also contribute to safety issues with car seats.
- Seats — If the seats are not properly made or installed, they can collapse in the event of an accident. This can become particularly dangerous in the event of a rear collision, which may cause any passengers in the backseat to become injured.
- Computer Defects — Though not common in older cars, in newer model vehicles, many important functions of the vehicle are controlled through a computer. Computers can now control the speed, power steering, and heating and cooling functions. Any malfunction with the computers can create a safety issue. For instance, if the cruise control malfunctions, the car could accelerate and cause an accident.
- Wiring – As with computers, wiring in vehicles controls many of the vehicle functions. If there is an issue with the wiring while the car is in motion, it could potentially lead to accidents and injuries.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney in Tampa
If you or a loved one have been injured in a serious car accident, you should contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate this uncertain time. If you have incurred medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering as a result of injuries from your accident, an attorney from Darrigo & Diaz can help give you the best chance at recovering your losses.
If you are concerned that your accident may have been caused by a manufacturing or design error, you will need to prove that those defects caused the wreck, which can be very difficult to do in many circumstances. At Darrigo & Diaz, your attorney can help gather the evidence you need in order to prove fault for your accident. We also look to cases similar to yours to establish a pattern of defects, negligence, or assignment of liability to a manufacturer.
Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our lawyers, where we will listen to the specifics of your case and give you individualized advice about how to best move forward. Call us at (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule your free in-person or virtual consultation.