Buying a car is a stressful yet exciting experience. You did your research, found the vehicle that best fits your driving needs, and took it on the road. Unfortunately, many drivers find a wide array of problems with their cars that have nothing to do with their driving and everything to do with dangerous defects.
Auto manufacturers are required to design and produce reasonably safe vehicles. But some auto manufacturers and car dealers sell vehicles that use poor-quality or defective parts. When vehicles are not adequately crash-tested, hurried through production, or badly designed, their occupants are much more likely to suffer serious injury.
At Grant Law Office in Atlanta, we have worked on many auto liability cases that involve serious or fatal injury. We know the ropes and understand the stressful and frightening position you have found yourself in. Please call local (404) 995-3955 or toll-free at (866) 249-5513 to set up a free consultation.
When it comes to auto products, there are two primary types of defects: design and manufacturing defects. Knowing which one caused your accident can help you determine how the defect happened, and thus who is liable for your damages.
Design: All products must go through a design process before they can be made and sold. For auto parts, in particular, the designs should be tested in multiple different scenarios to make sure that they can hold up to the wear and tear of the road. Unfortunately, tests are often skipped, or dangerous results are overlooked. As a result, bad and dangerous designs are pushed through. When that happens, it means that most, if not all, productions of that product will be defective and dangerous.
Manufacturing: Once a design is properly tested and approved, it must then be mass-produced. During the manufacturing process, there must be quality controls and checks in place. While auto part manufacturing is often automated to help ensure that all pieces are made exactly the same, mistakes can still be made. A poorly made part could easily and quickly cause a serious accident.
Cars, trucks, and motorcycles are complex machines. They have both electrical and mechanical parts; they have an exterior "shell" as well as interior "guts;” and each has its own complications and moving parts. On top of that, newer vehicles also have computer technology. Technological advances are making cars "smarter" than ever, but this also increases the likelihood of an electrical malfunction. Defects may range from inoperative turning signals to the gas tank falling onto the road, but all defects have the potential to cause a violent crash.
Some of the more common defects or design flaws include:
- Brake failure: If a vehicle’s brakes fail, the vehicle cannot come to a stop. This could lead to a high-speed crash, including a T-bone or head-on collision, with the full momentum of the impact severely injuring vehicle occupants.
- Defective tires: A worn or faulty tire can easily blow out, sending the vehicle careening out of control, whether off the road or into another car. These accidents happen suddenly, and occupants rarely have time to brace themselves for the impact.
- Lack of crashworthiness: When a vehicle isn’t designed with safety in mind, it may lack features like airbags or seatbelts, or contain hard-edged surfaces inside the car that severely lacerate an occupant in the event of a collision. These “second impact” injuries are the fault of the car’s manufacturer and should be treated that way.
- Sudden acceleration/deceleration: Toyota had to issue three separate recalls over sudden acceleration in its vehicles, which led to at least 37 deaths reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unexpected acceleration is not just dangerous to vehicle occupants, but to pedestrians and bicyclists outside the vehicle as well.
- Gas/oil/other fluid leaks: Any flammable fluid that leaks from the car’s engine can start a vehicle fire or explosion. Occupants may suffer smoke inhalation, lacerations, burn injuries, or end up crashing violently when they lose the ability to control the vehicle.
- Faulty door latches: A door that won’t lock doesn’t seem dangerous until you are in a violent collision or rollover accident—then, a door that unlocks can eject an occupant out of the vehicle and into the path of coming cars.
- Steering system defects/failure: Jammed steering wheels, faulty hydraulics or pumps, or bearing defects can interfere with a driver’s ability to steer, leading to an out-of-control wreck with catastrophic injuries. The same is true if your cruise control malfunctions and you don’t have time to react.
- Engine stalling: If your car stops moving in the middle of a busy street, you and your passengers are at extreme risk of being hit by multiple vehicles around you. Just a faulty sensor or electric component is enough to cause a vehicle to stall. If there was a design flaw in the engine, leading to the stall that allowed you to be struck by another vehicle, you may have a product liability case against the manufacturer.
When there are consistent reports of accidents involving a specific vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) often gets involved. The NHTSA usually conducts its own investigation or orders an investigation by another organization in response to complaints. If the investigative body finds a defect affecting the vehicles, the NHTSA will instruct the manufacturer to recall the defective vehicle. In most cases, the defect will be repaired at no cost to the consumer. However, recalls often come too late to prevent senseless accidents.
After an accident caused by a defective auto product, you may immediately assume that the manufacturer of that product is the one at fault. While this isn’t an unfair assumption to make, there are actually a number of parties that could be at fault for your collision. Determining which party is the one who caused the product to become defective can be a long process, as it involves tracking down every party that interacted with the part before it was installed in your car. That being said, there are a few groups that are more commonly at fault.
The design company: As we have said above, the first step to creating a new product is designing it. If the design team purposefully pushed through a product that had not been tested properly, or that they knew was dangerous and defective, then they would be the liable party.
The manufacturing company: Oftentimes, the design and manufacturing team are one in the same, or, at the very least, a part of the same parent company. In that case, if the product was made improperly, then the company responsible for both the design and the manufacturing would be liable. However, many auto parts are outsourced to individual manufacturers who could also be at fault for a defect.
The transporters: After a part, or even an entire vehicle, is made, it must be transported. This may be done via trucks or by boat, depending on where the part started and where it needs to get to. During the transportation process, the part must be kept in careful condition to make sure that it doesn’t get damaged or begin to rust.
The dealership: Vehicles and car parts can sit at a dealership or store for a very long time. This means they may be exposed to the weather, dust, water, and other elements that could lead to the part breaking down or becoming rusted. Dealerships and other auto shops have a responsibility to keep their products in proper storage, where they won’t become defective.
The mechanic: Nearly every driver has a mechanic that they go to when their car needs a tune-up or repair. Sadly, while mechanics have a serious responsibility to make sure that they take care of their clients and provide proper maintenance, some neglect this duty. If your mechanic installs a new part wrong, causes damage to your car, fails to replace a recalled part, or does not notice an obvious safety issue during an inspection, then they may be the party liable for your accident.
Once you figure out who is liable for your accident and auto defect, you must then go on to prove it during your case. You should always remember that the at-fault party and their insurance provider are unlikely to just give you the compensation you ask for, especially if your claim isn’t against a business or company. These groups care far more about their profits than about doing what is right and giving you the settlement you deserve will have a serious impact on their bottom line. However, if you make sure you have strong evidence backing up a few key factors, then you are likely to get your desired compensation.
The auto part was defective: Of course, step one is establishing that the part was defective in some way. You can do this by asking a mechanic or other auto expert to take a look at your car and establish that there was a serious defect. Or, if other people have suffered similar defects as you, then you can lean on the fact that the defect is widespread.
You were injured as a result of the defect: After establishing that the vehicle or auto part was defective, you must then be able to show that you were injured as a direct result. Key evidence for this may involve medical records, eyewitness testimony, and photos taken directly after the accident.
The auto part was used as intended: Each auto part has a very specific use that it is built for. If you use a part incorrectly, you run the risk of injuring yourself. In such an instance, the product would not have been defective; instead, it would have been used for the wrong job. This means that you would be responsible for your own injuries.
The auto part was not altered: Similar to using the part for the wrong purpose, if you altered the part or vehicle inappropriately, then you may actually be the one responsible for the resulting accident. This is because when auto parts and vehicles are designed, they are put through specific tests in order to determine how safe they are. These tests cannot anticipate alterations, meaning that the design and manufacturing company could not possibly ensure the product is safe in such a scenario.
After establishing all of those factors, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault party. Unfortunately, even with all of that evidence, if you don’t have the right attorney, the liable party may still try to short-change you. That is why your first priority, even before gathering evidence, is making sure you are working with an experienced and skilled car accident attorney.
At Grant Law Office, our experienced Atlanta product liability lawyers are committed to helping injured victims hold at-fault parties responsible for their negligence. We will thoroughly investigate your case to prove that a defect caused your injury and pursue financial compensation for the losses and damages you have suffered as a result. To learn more about your legal rights and determine the validity of your claim, call our law office today at (404) 995-3955 or toll-free at (866) 249-5513.
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