Automotive accidents are among one of the top causes of death each year in the United States, many of which can be attributed to defective and dangerous automobile products. In fact, many people suffer serious injury in auto accidents, without realizing their injuries are due to auto defects.
In most cases, a personal injury lawyer will come across a potential product liability case as a result of an automobile accident involving catastrophic injuries. Often, serious injuries are simply the result of tremendous force and far too often could have been prevented if the car had been designed more safely. Regardless of the reason for the defect, you have rights as a consumer. The severity of the defect and the consequences involved may vary widely depending on the product and state in which you reside. Though many of these defects may appear minor, the possibility of significant damage to your vehicle exists, as well as potential injury and in some cases death.
As modern vehicles evolve, they contain more and more computerized components. From audio and navigation systems, to safety features including blind-spot detection, potentially dangerous adaptive cruise control (ACC), and all the way to full self-driving “autopilot”, software plays a large role in how modern cars operate. Electric vehicles and autonomous cars are becoming more common on our roadways, but even internal combustion engine powered vehicles rely on computer software for crucial safety systems. As such, software-based vehicle defects are on a steady upwards trajectory. Automobile software defects can come in many forms: failure to interact with the necessary components, bugs in the code, or software that fails to work because an electric component failed or was damaged.
Many automotive safety features that we take for granted have come about, in part, due to pressure on the automotive manufacturer exerted through litigation.
FAST FACT – Rollover and roof crushes are the most common issues of automobile defects, as well as faulty seatbelts.
- CLICK HERE – to learn more about Vehicle Rollovers
The Defective Automobile Product Case
A product liability case exists when any product – be it a car, medical device or household product – is not reasonably safe for its ordinary or foreseeable use. A product is unreasonably dangerous if it is defective in assembly, or manufacture, unreasonably dangerous in design or accompanied by adequate warnings, regarding hazardous properties. Too often, potential cases are not investigated due to the attorney not realizing the true cause of the client’s injuries and unsafe design of a product.
Generally, the attorney will start by requesting a copy of the police report of the accident so they can see what the officers have said about the case. Was there any alcohol involved? Was speed a factor? Were the occupants wearing a seatbelt? Were road conditions a factor in the accident? They will also request to see photographs of the damaged vehicle. There are many variables that make up a defective automobile liability case and these questions and answers will help to determine if you have a defective automobile case.
Timeline for Defective Automobile Cases
It can take up to three years or more, if the case goes to trial. In some cases it is possible to get into mediation and have a resolution by twelve months. Each case is different and therefore times may vary. When dealing with a defective automobile case, it is best to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible. Because the case involves a defective product, the case cannot move forward without the truck or car involved in the accident. If you wait until six months after the accident, chances are that the vehicle is no longer accessible. An attorney will help have the car picked up, stored and examined by an expert, upon taking the case. Without the vehicle you may not have a case.
Costs Involved in Defective Automobile Cases
Product liability cases are expensive to prosecute and bring to trial. Mainly due to the number of tests and the number of experts used to build the case. For example, if the case involves a defective make and model year of a particular care, part of the preparation may involve buying three more cars from that same make and model year that can be used in a crash study to build an evidence study. This small but essential part of the case could cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
Defective automobile cases are expert intensive – you are going up against an automobile manufacture giant. They have many resources available to them and they have a lot at stake. You need talented experts to help build your case. An Accident Reconstruction Expert, for example, must be on the scene of the actual accident, which may mean flying him across the country or even out of the country. Additional experts may include treating doctors and specialists, roof crush experts and more depending on the individual case.
Choosing an Automobile Product Liability Lawyer
Don’t pick the first lawyer you meet with. Interview them first and don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, this is your livelihood at stake and this person will most likely be advising you on critical matters that may affect the rest of your life.
Some things to consider:
- Do they specialize in this area of law?
- How many like cases have they tried?
- How many years have they been trying these types of cases?
- Most importantly, do they try a lot of cases and go to trial.
KEY STRATEGY – When pursuing an automobile product liability case, who your lawyer is, makes an enormous difference. You need to take time and find and attorney with the experience, knowledge and the resources necessary to properly handle your case.
Common Automobile Defects
The following is a list of common automobile products and types of accidents that have a history of producing injuries and litigation:
Airbags – If an occupant’s airbag deployed and her injuries appear more severe than expected from the collisions force, her injuries may have been caused by the airbag. Also, the airbag may not deploy when they should. More recently, Takata airbags have been linked to multiple fatalities. In either scenario an attorney should investigate the matter.
Roof Crush – A product liability case may exist if the portion of the vehicles roof is intruding into the occupant compartment in the location where an injured occupant was sitting. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216 mandates that a vehicle roof cannot collapse more than 5 inches in a collision.
Fuel Fed Fires – If it appears a fire contributed to the serious injury or death of an occupant in a vehicle, a potential products liability case should be investigated.
Seatbelts – Potential design defects of seat belts are wide-ranging. Successful cases have included defects in the buckle, poor positioned anchor points, faulty retractors and more.
Shoulder Straps – The location of the shoulder strap mount is important for safety. If the seatbelt is mounted to the seat itself, this is usually safer during a rollover accident.
Seat Back Collapse – A common problem in almost every vehicle on the road – if rear-ended at 25-30 mph, with a person in the front seat of 175lbs or more, there is a good chance the seatback will collapse into the rear seat. This can cause serious injury to the person in the seat and the person behind them as well.
Please keep in mind that we can not possibly list all automobile defects, however, the above examples are some of the most common defects.
Statute of Limitations
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury in a car accident and you believe an automobile defect is to blame, you should contact a personal injury lawyer that specializes in these cases immediately. It is important to keep in mind that each state has a statue of limitations that specifies when a case must be ensued for it to be valid.
Read the first article: How to Stay Safe and Avoid Harmful Products