Automobile accidents are traumatic and expensive, even if those involved escape without major injuries. However, it’s even worse when the accident was caused by a manufacturing defect. When you fork over $30 to $60K for a new vehicle, you have every right to expect that your purchase is in perfect operating condition when you drive it off the lot.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case with a new car or truck. If you are lucky, it may only be an engine or transmission defect that prevents you from driving it at all. In more serious cases, however, defects can affect the brakes, throttle, suspension or steering mechanism, leading to major collisions. Even safety equipment such as airbags has been responsible for serious injuries and deaths.
Sometimes, automakers are aware of vehicle defects even as they come off the assembly line. They crunch the numbers and decide it’s less expensive to risk a few lawsuits rather than address the problem. Other times, problems become apparent only after the vehicle has been on the market for a while. It may not even be the original carmaker’s fault; automotive components are manufactured by many different companies. Anyone at any point in the assembly process may bear liability for vehicle defects, complicating litigation. If enough people are affected, the case can turn into mass litigation, or multi-district litigation (MDL), which can involve hundreds of plaintiffs.
Regardless of whether your defect-related accident is an isolated incident or due to a widespread design and manufacturing problem, you deserve compensation for your injuries and expenses.
In 2016, more than fifty million cars and trucks were subject to manufacturer recalls. The following year, the car industry had managed to reduce that figure by 20 percent — but that is still 30 million potentially dangerous vehicles on the road. This year, vehicle recalls for hazardous defects include the following makes and models:
These are just a few of the more serious defects identified over the past 2 to 3 years.
The type of claim arising from a defective vehicle accident falls into two broad categories.
When this occurs, it is usually because of mistakes and oversights on the assembly line, such as the aforementioned steering column issues with the Mercedes S-class. This can also happen when defective components from other manufacturers are used in the vehicle assembly. This was an issue a few years ago when a number of airbag inflators made by Takata exploded in drivers’ faces, causing serious injuries and death. These airbags were installed in vehicles from 19 different carmakers.
This is a very serious matter, suggesting that the manufacturer was aware of the problem and chose to save on production costs by disregarding the problem. One of the most infamous examples is the Ford Pinto, an economy car built during the 1970s that was prone to deadly fuel tank explosions in rear-end collisions.
In rare situations, a vehicle defect may be caused by improper handling while the vehicle was transported from the factory to the dealership. In this case, the transport company would be at fault. The dealer may also be held liable if it is proven they were aware or should have known about the defect.
By law, any automaker who becomes aware of a defect of any kind must notify registered vehicle owners by registered mail. However, if you have changed your address since purchasing a new vehicle from a dealer, or bought a used car, you might not get a notification or even be aware of a recall until you read a news story about an accident involving the same make and model.
If you have reason to believe your vehicle is defective — for example, if you wind up having the same repair done repeatedly, or your mechanic identifies a problem that cannot be attributed to normal wear and tear, your best course of action is to visit the website of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This government agency maintains an up-to-date listing of all auto recalls. Simply enter the make, model, and year or your vehicle’s VIN to find this information.
Normally, if your vehicle has been recalled, you can take it to the dealership and have the problem corrected at no charge. Depending on the nature of the defect, it may be more prudent to have the vehicle towed.
Assuming that neither party in the collision was aware or should have been aware of the vehicle defect causing the accident, any injury lawsuit arising from the accident would be against the carmaker, the manufacturer of the component in question, or the dealer.
For success in a defective vehicle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the accident was directly caused by a design or manufacturing defect, or that the dealer or automaker failed to provide adequate instructions or warnings.
A defective vehicle lawsuit falls in the realm of product liability. This involves an extensive investigation into the matter in order to identify the party liable. Once this has been established, attorneys for both sides will make a good faith effort to come to a settlement. For you, this means your counsel must convince the defendant that it will cost more to fight you in court than it would to simply pay you to go away.
Be aware that product liability cases often involve multiple plaintiffs. Cases such as these can turn into multidistrict litigation. Although MDL involves multiple plaintiffs, it is unlike a class action in that each plaintiff’s individual case remains separate. A few representative or ‘bellwether’ cases are chosen for trial before a federal judge. If the majority of those plaintiffs prevail, the defendant will be pressured to settle the remaining cases.
The auto accident attorneys at Fielding Law are here to represent you every step of the way. We will fight for every dollar to which you are entitled. Most cases settle before trial, but we are fully prepared to go to court if necessary. With us, you can expect personalized, one-on-one service with an experienced attorney with access to the resources of a major law firm. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Fielding Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation.