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Defective Motor Vehicle Injury Lawsuits

Usually, an auto accident is caused by at least one of the drivers involved. This is true even for single-vehicle accidents. However, some crashes are due to defective products. When this happens, the victims can sue the vehicle manufacturer, dealership, or distributor for damages. You may even have a claim against the vehicle parts manufacturer. It all depends on the nature of the defect and which party was responsible.

Motor vehicle defect cases include claims involving passenger vehicles and motorcycles, trucks, and vans. Unlike an ordinary personal injury claim, your product liability attorney doesn't have to prove negligence in these cases under products liability law.

To establish liability in defective motor vehicle accident cases, your personal injury lawyer must only prove the product defect existed and that it caused your car wreck.

This article provides a brief overview of motor vehicle defects. It will also discuss how defective motor vehicle lawsuits work.

Vehicles With Design or Manufacturing Defects

Every year, auto manufacturers issue recalls for various vehicle defects. It doesn't matter whether you drive a car, SUV, motorcycle, ATV, or commercial truck, your vehicle may have a defect. Many people don't know about the defect until they get into a car accident.

The types of defects vary, depending on the kind of motor vehicle you drive. For example, thousands of people are hurt every year in SUV rollover accidents. Many others suffer injuries due to defective airbags or seatbelts.

When researching the type of vehicle you want to buy, check the safety records. Look to see what other people have said about the car. Have there been numerous recalls over the years? Have there been fatal accidents due to vehicle defects?

Safety is paramount to most drivers, so you owe it to yourself to do your homework before purchasing a new or used vehicle. One place to start is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They maintain a page with information on current and recent vehicle recalls.

Types of Motor Vehicle Defects

Many of us have received a recall notice at some point. Perhaps the anti-lock brake system in your car doesn't work correctly, or a part wasn't installed properly. If the manufacturer or retailer learns about the defect they may issue a recall, offering you the chance to get the issue fixed.

Some of the more common defects you may experience with your vehicle include the following:

  • The body and frame
  • Brakes and braking system
  • Cooling and temperature control system
  • Electrical system
  • Engine assembly
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel system
  • Lubrication system
  • Passenger compartment
  • Steering and suspension systems
  • Transmission and drivetrain, and other parts and accessories

If any of these defects cause an accident and you get hurt, you may have a claim for damages. It all depends on whether there is sufficient evidence to prove liability by the vehicle manufacturer, retailer, distributor, or dealership.

What Do You Have To Prove in Your Auto Defect Accident Claim?

Your vehicle having a defect doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to damages. Your product liability lawyer must prove you suffered a loss to recover damages. They must demonstrate that the vehicle defect caused your auto accident.

To recover compensation, your attorney must show that your car, truck, or motorcycle had a defective part and that this is what caused your crash. The judge will apply a strict liability standard if your case goes to trial.

Again, negligence is not a requirement under the strict liability legal standard. Regardless of what steps an auto manufacturer or dealer says it took in designing, assembling, or handling a motor vehicle, you can file a product liability lawsuit for a motor vehicle defect.

To succeed in your defective car lawsuit, your attorney must prove that the following three conditions exist:

  • The vehicle, or one of its components), had an unreasonably dangerous defect. The defect may be a manufacturing or design defect. In some cases, the defect is from the manufacturer or dealer's failure to warn consumers of a dangerous aspect of the vehicle.
  • The defect injured you while using the vehicle in the matter it was intended to be operated. For example, you may not be able to recover if you tried to ride your motorcycle over a rocky ravine.
  • You didn't substantially change the vehicle after you bought it. In this context, substantially means in a way that affects how the car performs.

If your attorney can prove all three things, you will likely receive compensation for your injuries.

What Damages Can You Recover in a Dangerous Product Case?

You will recover damages if you win your case against the auto manufacturer or another liable party. The amount of your judgment or settlement depends on several factors. The more serious your injuries, the more money you'll receive. Your compensation will also depend on whether you were partially at fault for your accident.

In these types of product liability claims, the following damages may be available:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

It's worth noting that judges rarely award plaintiffs punitive damages. Your lawyer would have to prove that the defendant behaved recklessly or wantonly for this to happen.

Punitive Damages

Though rare, a recent trend in vehicle product liability cases is for judges to increase punitive damages awards. These awards are above and beyond the damages awarded to compensate a plaintiff for their injuries. In some cases, punitive damages range into the tens of millions of dollars.

Punitive damages punish vehicle manufacturers for marketing and selling dangerous products. The courts want to encourage them to fix inherent defects in vehicle designs before they cause injuries.

Vehicle manufacturers typically use a cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to change a potentially defective vehicle design. They calculate the cost of implementing a design change and weigh it against the potential cost of litigation. The courts award punitive damages to incentivize the manufacturer to correct design defects immediately.

Defenses to Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuits

The vehicle manufacturer and seller will raise a defense to your strict liability claim. This is especially true if you have owned your vehicle for a long time. They'll try to show that you knew about the defect but continued to use the car anyway.

You can establish this by showing the vehicle's condition or statements you make in your insurance claim. In some states, a manufacturer or seller may argue that you were partially at fault for the accident.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help With Your Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuits

Defective vehicle claims are often complex. The auto manufacturer will have a team of attorneys helping them. Have someone help with your personal injury case as well.

You may need experts to help prove liability. You'll also have to ensure that you file your claim before the statute of limitations period expires. Rather than deal with this alone, contact an experienced product liability local attorney for legal advice and to discuss your claim.

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