When representing consumers involved in vehicle accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, the possibility that a defect in the design, manufacture or warnings related to the vehicle involved in the accident should be examined. Automotive defects are varied as the vehicles found on American roadways, and a fact specific inquiry is necessary to determine what defect issues may have contributed. Some of the most common automotive defect claims involve aged tire claims, airbag defects, child seat defects, crashworthiness claims, fuel system defects, glass claims, occupant ejections, rollover accidents, roof crush, seatback failures, seatbelt defects, tire failures, tread separations, trailer sway and vehicle stability claims.
[quote]In accidents involving catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, the possibility that a defect in the design, manufacture or warnings related to the vehicle should be examined[/quote]
When evaluating if an automotive defect may form the basis of a legal claim, it is best to consider a few simple factors. First, due to the considerable expense involved in litigating any product defect case, the magnitude of the injuries sustained must be examined. As a rule of thumb, the injuries must be catastrophic and permanent to justify pursuing a claim. Second, the injury sustained must have been “caused” by the defect in the vehicle itself or result from a failure to adequately warn of the dangers or hazards involved. Causation, as it is referred to by the courts, is a critical component of any case and must exist to pursue relief. Third, all of the possible legal theories that can be pursued must be considered. Because of the complex design of most vehicles, and how safety systems integrate together and overlap to provide occupant protection, most automotive defect cases involve multiple defect allegations. Despite the specific defect allegations, however, generally speaking the defect theories tend to revolve around claims that:
- the design of the vehicle was such that it was unreasonably dangerous or defective;
- the vehicle as made or manufactured was defective; or
- the warnings or instructions regarding the vehicle were inadequate or improper and led to injuries.
If it is believed or suspected that an automotive defect caused a catastrophic injury or fatality an investigation should be conducted to determine if a claim exists. To ensure that the claim is properly preserved, it is critical that the vehicle and all of its component parts be kept, and that it not be tampered with or altered from the state it was in when the accident happened.
As Automotive Defect attorneys we can help
At the Didier Law Firm we have extensive experience in handling a wide variety of automotive defect claims. If we can be of assistance to you in evaluating or pursuing a product defect claim relating to a automotive defect please do not hesitate to contact us.
Aged Tire Claims
Old tires have been the subject of growing concern by auto safety advocates. Extensive research has proven that physical and chemical properties of tires change over time, causing them to degrade after six years – even if tires haven’t been used. The average consumer is well aware of how to inspect tire tread depth, but has no idea that, regardless of tread, old tires can become brittle and separate on the road. The industry is well aware of the issue and the dangers but is reluctant to put uniform guidelines in place.
With every passing year airbag systems become more and more complex. For example, many systems now monitor seat position and belt use or non-use to determine when and if an airbag deployment is needed in minor to moderate accidents to protect the occupant. With this ever increasing complexity, the ability to identify and prosecute airbag defect claims becomes more difficult.
Buses can be convenient and economical for moving large groups of people or taking long trips. However, while the number of accidents involving buses is still relatively small, the likelihood for injuries and deaths is greater than a car. In addition to mass transit buses causing accidents, school buses, charter and other private-use buses also contribute to the rising number of bus accidents.
Child Seat Defects
Children are our most precious cargo, and as consumers we rely upon manufacturers of child seats, boosters and the like to provide our kids protection when it is needed. Unfortunately, not all child restraints are created equal. In fact, often those responsible for designing child restraints lack the experience and qualifications to adequately take into consideration the multitude of factors that play into making a seat perform adequately in foreseeable crashes.
The term “crashworthiness” generally refers to a vehicle’s ability to protect its occupants from injury during an impact. The crashworthiness of a vehicle is largely dependent on the design decisions made by the auto manufacturer, and whether it took adequate steps to provide reasonable occupant protection utilizing the best available safety designs at the time.
Fuel System Defects
It is generally recognized among automotive designers that vehicle occupants should not be seriously injured or killed due to a post-collision fire if the accident is otherwise survivable. Unfortunately, despite consensus in this area of the importance of designing vehicles to prevent thermal injuries or fire related deaths post-accident, an alarming number of people are still injured or killed each year due to faulty fuel system designs.
It is not recognized by much of the consuming public that there are various types of automotive glass products used in the windows of cars, trucks and SUVs, and that the use of certain glass or glazing products can make a substantial difference in providing occupants protection in accidents.
Accidents on American roadways are an everyday occurrence, but with every passing year the safety systems in vehicles improve increasing the likelihood that serious injuries can be avoided. Central to the concept of occupant protection in accidents is the idea that vehicle occupants must be safely contained within the vehicle.
SUV rollover accidents are among the most tragic types of vehicle accidents, killing 10,000 and injuring nearly 30,000 people each year. Although not as common as other accidents, SUV rollovers result in a disproportionate number of serious injuries and deaths annually. Considering the popularity of the SUV as a family vehicle, it is all the more critical that manufacturers do everything possible to prevent rollovers and related injuries.
The term “roof crush” is used to describe the unintended failure of a vehicle’s roof structures that occur when vehicles roll over. When these structures fail they can cause the roof to intrude into the occupant compartment causing serious injuries, including significant head and spinal cord injuries.
Often the ability of an occupant to walk away from a serious rear-end accident depends on how well that occupant’s and seatback performed in the crash. While there is significant debate within the automotive industry about the best design for seatbacks to prevent injuries, there is consensus that seatbacks should not fail uncontrollably rearward.
Seatbelts are credited with saving thousands of lives and are invaluable as a safety device when accidents occur. In fact, all major automakers stress in their marketing and vehicle manuals the importance of wearing seatbelts to prevent injuries. However, when these critical safety systems fail serious injuries and wrongful deaths can result.
Side Airbag Defects
Side airbags are designed to protect passengers from injury in frequently occurring side impacts, and are most commonly deployed from the side of the seat itself to inflate between the door structures and the occupant.
Sudden Unintended Acceleration
Currently, more than a dozen Toyota models are being recalled or investigated for problems ranging from sticking accelerator pedals, steering issues, floor mats and brake pedals. The majority of the nearly eight million vehicles recalled are related to a sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) problem that the company linked to faulty gas pedals and floor mats.
Since the massive recall of Bridgestone Firestone tires in the early 2000s, public awareness has been heightened with respect to the dangers posed by defective tires. Tire failure claims most often arise out of accidents that result from tread separations when the vehicle’s tread actually separates or peels off of the underlying carcass or body of the tire. When this occurs it can have dramatic effects on how a vehicle will react when the driver makes steering corrections to try to maintain control and can lead to lose of control and rollover accidents.
Every year on American highways preventable accidents occur involving travel trailers of various lengths and configurations. The phenomenon commonly referred to as “trailer sway” occurs when a trailer being towed by a car, truck or van begins to sway or swing back and forth as it is being pulled. Often this side-to-side oscillation of the trailer occurs due to air disturbances caused by passing tractor trailers or wind gusts.
Almost all tires manufactured today are steel belted radial tires, and the most common result of a defect in a steel belted radial tire is a tire tread separation. Tread separation, where the tread physically separates from the main carcass of the tire, usually occurs when the rubber used to make the tire does not bond or adhere properly to the steel belts. A defect can occur as a result of poor decisions in the design stage or because of poor quality control and shortcomings in the manufacturing process.
Although trucking accidents account for a small percentage of traffic accidents, they account for a large percentage of traffic fatalities. Semi-truck and other large commercial truck accidents are oftentimes the result of carelessness on the part of the truck driver. A classic cause of trucking accidents is driver fatigue, occurring when a driver overextends their time and service requirements to increase income. In such cases, the conduct of the driver and the company he may work for becomes paramount.
Thrifty consumers may not realize the hidden dangers that exist when they purchase used tires. Years of age, wear and potential damage may have been obscured, leaving consumers unaware that their tires could fail at any time.
[box type=”info”]Vehicle Stability Claims
With the immense popularity of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) has come an alarming increase in rollover accidents. These accidents are often blamed on the driver of the vehicle who is accused of over-steering and losing control. However, it is now known that the stability of the vehicle itself has an enormous impact on whether or not it may rollover as designed in foreseeable emergency driving maneuvers. Because the design of SUVs vary greatly, some vehicles are more prone to rollover than others.[/box]