Liability for Accidents Caused by Defective Automotive Products
Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ordered additional recalls of millions of vehicles that may have been equipped with defective frontal airbags. According to the NHTSA, the defect can be traced to an ammonium nitrate-based propellant used in airbags manufactured by the Japanese company, Takata, which when combined with environmental moisture or high temperatures and a defect in the airbags’ inflator, can lead to an explosion. This in turn can cause metal shrapnel from the inflators’ metal cartridge to spray throughout the car.
It appears that the airbags were mostly used in cars from the model years 2002 through 2015, although the true reach of the defect is still unknown. Hundreds of individuals have been injured as a result of the defect and this number is expected to grow as Takata has been unable to ascertain how many vehicles were equipped with the defective product. Automotive defects are a primary cause of car accidents in America and can have devastating and even deadly consequences, so if you were injured by a defective vehicle or defective car part, it is critical to speak with an experienced Atlanta automobile accident attorney as soon as possible so that you can begin the process of collecting compensation for your losses.
Common Automobile Defects
Millions of dangerous and defective vehicles are recalled every year in the U.S. Although airbag defects are some of the most common, there are are a number of other kinds of defects that can cause serious injuries, including:
- Improperly manufactured or designed tires;
- Failed seat belts;
- Unreliable steering components;
- Defective fuel systems;
- Malfunctioning accelerator controls;
- Failed windshield wipers;
- Improperly manufactured braking systems;
- Malfunctioning wiring;
- Nonfunctioning engine cooling fan blades; and
- Defective car seats.
Most defective car parts malfunction as a result of:
- Poor design;
- Improper assembly;
- Use of improper or inferior materials;
- Insufficient or negligent testing;
- Improper repairs; or
- Negligent maintenance.
Regardless of the cause, defective automotive parts can have dangerous and deadly consequences that can cause thousands of dollars in damages. Injuries caused by automotive defects can cause serious injuries, including:
- Head trauma, including fractures, concussions, and brain injuries;
- Facial damage;
- Lacerations, abrasions, and puncture wounds;
- Scrapes and bruising;
- Vision loss;
- Finger, hand, and forearm injuries;
- Minor to serious burns;
- Hearing damage; and
Often, car accident injuries are permanent or take years to fully heal. This means that victims will not only be required to pay for emergency treatment, but may also bear the burden of paying for ongoing and future medical costs, including physical therapy, medications, and surgeries. Fortunately, automobile manufacturers, distributors, and sellers can be held legally responsible for these costs when a vehicle they supplied is defective.
The costs of treating car accident injuries can be extremely high and take a significant financial toll on victims. Related expenses can include everything from the costs of emergency medical transport and treatment to multiple reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy. Those who sustain particularly horrific injuries may be permanently scarred or disfigured or may suffer emotional distress, especially if they were young at the time of the crash or lost a loved one.
Aside from medical costs, victims and their families may need to totally replace their vehicle or pay for expensive repairs. Victims are often required to take time off from work until their injuries are completely healed, a process that could take months. Some are unable to perform the work they previously did as a result of their injuries and must seek employment that is less well paying just to foot the medical bills. Fortunately, in North Carolina, victims can receive compensation not only for medical expenses, but also for the following:
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Property damage; and
- Pain and suffering.
While non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are difficult to quantify, they are an important part of compensating victims for their losses.
When a recall is issued, the manufacturer is required to contact all potential owners of cars that may be equipped with the defective part as well as all distributors, car dealerships, and the NHTSA before fixing the problem free of charge. While many manufacturers initiate recalls voluntarily once they discover the problem, others only do so when ordered by the NHTSA.
After a recall, injured parties can file individual claims in either state or federal court. Alternatively, they can choose to participate in a class-action suit based on one of the following legal theories of liability:
- Strict liability;
- Breach of warranty; or
When cases involve multiple parties separate claims are usually consolidated into a multidistrict litigation proceeding (MDL), although the cases are only heard together during pretrial proceedings. Some manufacturers choose to create a compensation fund to help victims while also avoiding the expense of trial.
While manufacturers are usually primarily held responsible for vehicle defects, other parties, such as suppliers and car part manufacturers can also be held legally accountable for injuries caused by a car’s defect.
What to Do After an Accident
Victims involved in car crashes caused by a defective vehicle or car part should first ensure that all parties have received medical attention if necessary. At this point, a defective car’s driver should take detailed photographs of the damage and ensure that all records of purchase or repair are safely stored. These documents can be invaluable in establishing that a car was already damaged at the time of purchase or delivery.
How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Sustaining injuries in a car accident can be financially, physically, and emotionally stressful for not only victims, but also their loved ones. All car accidents are unfortunate, but crashes caused by the negligence of a large company are especially tragic because they could have been avoided. Fortunately, responsible companies can and should be held legally responsible for their actions, so if you or a loved one were injured in a car accident in the Atlanta area, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer who can help explain your legal options.