Auto accidents happen for many reasons, but some collisions occur because one of the vehicles involved is defective. In some cases, manufacturers find a fault and recall a batch of cars, but if the drivers are unaware of the issue, an accident could follow. Find out how a defective vehicle can affect liability in an accident, and learn more about your legal options in these cases with your traffic accident attorney.
How a safety recall works in the United States
Safety defects are relatively common in modern vehicles, and a single manufacturing flaw can take thousands of cars off the road. In the United States, either a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can initiate a safety recall, and manufacturers must always try to contact and warn all known owners.
Between January and October 2014, the NHTSA and auto manufacturers recalled more than 50 million vehicles in the United States. One recall alone affected nearly 8 million vehicles, due to a problem with malfunctioning airbags. With so many faulty vehicles on American roads, it's increasingly likely that any collision will involve a defective car or truck.
Product liability claims
If you suffer an injury because of a defective car, you may need to file a product liability claim. These claims typically involve vehicles with a defective part or vehicles with a dangerous design. In many cases, these vehicles are on the market for some time before someone notices the flaw.
Product liability lawsuits are often complex because so many people are potential defendants. People you may need to sue include:
- The vehicle manufacturer
- A parts manufacturer
- The dealership that sold you the car
- The store that sold you the parts
- A shipping company
What's more, you don't have to own a defective vehicle to file a product liability claim. You can still sue a defendant if you are a passenger in somebody else's defective car, or if a defective car hits your vehicle.
Traffic accident claims
While you may have a product liability claim against a dealer or manufacturer, you may also need to file a negligent driving claim against the other driver in a collision. In most cases, you should normally file both types of claim, and you may win both lawsuits.
In accidents involving defective vehicles, you can prove liability in several ways. These include:
- Breach of warranty, where the manufacturer or dealer gives the owner a written guarantee
- Breach of implied warranties, where the defect means that the vehicle's condition fell below state standards, even if there was no written guarantee
- Strict products liability, where state law means that you just have to show that the vehicle is defective and the defect caused an injury or damage
A trained attorney can help you learn more about these options, and can advise you on the evidence you may need to prepare to substantiate your claim. In many cases, it's difficult for the plaintiff to prove that the defect or vehicle design caused an injury or damages. A defendant will often argue that you were driving badly.
Staying alert to safety recalls
It's in all drivers' interests to make sure they find out about any safety recalls that affect their vehicles. The NHTSA publishes details of all these recalls online, and car drivers should check the details carefully before buying a new or used car. You can also search a specific vehicle identification number to find out if the car is subject to any recalls.
Car owners can also download an app that allows them to register their details with the NHTSA. If the NHTSA issues a safety recall that affects their vehicle, these owners then receive a notification. These precautions can help you prove that you are not negligent if somebody files a product liability or traffic accident claim against you.
Defective vehicles are increasingly common on American roads, so it's important to know your rights in an auto accident. Make sure you know about any defects that affect your car's make and model to avoid a lengthy, expensive claim against you.