Auto Products Liability
On a daily basis we are working to help someone injured as a result of a product defect. Cases involving television tip overs, children’s toys, swimming pools, electric can openers, insect repellant, malfunctioning airbags, and electric car windows that would not role down and trapped the occupants of a car that flipped over in an otherwise minor crash.
Products liability law involves the legal theories of strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, fraud, misrepresentation, and violation of the deceptive trade practice laws. Automotive cases are often expensive to pursue. Below are examples of automotive related cases.
Automotive Crashworthiness – Air Bags/Seat Belts
Motor vehicle defects can lead to injury or death. Cases involving defective automobiles or trucks include the concept of crashworthiness. This describes the capability of a vehicle to prevent injuries to the occupants in the event of a collision.
Another type of case which we recently handled involved a woman who suffered a fractured elbow as a result of an airbag deployment during a crash. The airbag deployed as intended, but the woman was small in stature and the manufacturer knew that small women were at high risk for injury during airbag deployment. Yet, it posted no warning, and did nothing to limit the danger.
Passenger vehicles must meet federal standards specifying minimum safety levels. Additionally, though standards help improve overall safety, many dangers are not addressed in government safety regulations.
Automotive Crashworthiness – Roof Crush
When vehicle makers breach their duty to design, produce, and properly install crashworthy roofs on their vehicles it is often in order to put profits above safety. Roof crush injuries can include spine injuries, brain damage and death. Often the cost of improving roof strength is minimal. While a company might do front impact crash dummy tests, it is rare for auto makers to conduct extensive rollover testing. There are government testing requirements for front impact safety, but not equally tough testing requirements for rollover safety, or passenger safety in every other type of crash.
One case we recently handled involved a group of teens who were in a serious collision following a wedding. One of the teens became a quadriplegic as a result of injuries sustained due to crashworthiness safety defects and a failure of the vehicle to warn of a seatbelt malfunction.
Automotive Crashworthiness – Stability Control
A failure of crashworthiness can include a lack of a safe design to distribute the collision forces away from the more vulnerable parts of the body. Imagine what vehicles would be like without passenger restraint systems, or if the manufacturer took no care to prevent fuel system failures in lower to moderate speed crashes. Well engineered safety features that we often take for granted exist because accident victims fought back after suffering an injury and sued.
Post-Collision Fuel-Fed Fires in Cars and Heavy Trucks
Fuel system defects in cars and large trucks can cause fires and explosions after a crash. A well designed fuel system will safely contain the fuel being carried on the vehicle during a collision. Safely designed fuel systems are supposed to stop fuel from leaking after most crashes. Fuel system fires are common in 18 wheeler (tractor trailer) accidents. Burn injuries can be deadly, and those who survive may have months of burn rehab, including painful skin grafts, and reconstructive surgeries. Burns cause physical disfigurement and emotional suffering.
Tire Failure – Tread Separation
Tires rubber can degrade over time, but new tires should not suffer a blowout, or tread separation. Sometimes steel-belted radial tires are especially prone to tread separation. Tread separation can cause a driver to lose control. Tread separation can be the result of a problem or defect in the manufacturing process. The design may be defective or the tire may be constructed in a deficient manner.