Mechanical Malfunctions Causing Car Accidents & Potential Legal Claims
Many car crashes arise due to negligence, but sometimes a crash is caused by a mechanical failure or malfunction. A mechanical malfunction can be the sole cause of your car accident, or it can be simply a contributing factor that transforms a minor accident into a catastrophic event.
What counts as a mechanical malfunction? Among the possible malfunctions are seatbelts that don't work, brakes that fail, airbags that injure, tires that have defects, or defective accelerators that can be inadvertently triggered. A seatbelt can malfunction in a number of ways. It can fail to tighten appropriately or unlatch unexpectedly. A seatbelt failure or any of the other mechanical malfunctions may be the result of a product defect.
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For more information about products liability law, including mechanical malfunctions, visit Justia’s Auto Defects page in the Products Liability Center.
Products Liability Suits Arising From Mechanical Malfunctions
If you are hurt in part or wholly because your car has a mechanical malfunction, it may be appropriate to sue the manufacturer or seller of your vehicle. Mechanical malfunctions can be a result of a manufacturing defect or a flawed product design. A design defect is a problem that can be found in an entire line of products, whereas a manufacturing defect occurs during the construction or production, usually to just one particular product or a limited number of them.
Most states permit several different theories to be used to recover damages when a person is injured by a defective product. No matter which of these theories is used, the plaintiff's attorney will likely need to retain an expert to testify as to the product's defects and causation. The expert may also need to testify about a suitable alternative design that was available to the defendant manufacturer.
The theory of strict liability requires a plaintiff to prove that a defective part was in a defective or unreasonably dangerous condition when it left the manufacturer's or seller's control and that the defect caused the accident. A product is considered defective when it is unsafe for someone who is using it normally. A product is considered unreasonably dangerous if it presents more danger than would be expected by an ordinary consumer. The nuances of these principles vary from state to state.
Negligence is another theory that may be asserted in a products liability case arising out of a car crash. The victim injured in the car crash must show the defendant owed a duty of care, the defendant breached its duty, actual and proximate causation, and that the victim suffered actual losses because of the breach.
Often, since it is not necessary to establish that a manufacturer's actions fell below a particular standard, strict liability can be easier to prove than negligence. However, in cases caused by the flawed or defective design of a car, it may be more effective and appropriate to allege negligence.
A repair shop may be liable for a mechanical malfunction if it negligently repaired a car or failed to recognize a need for repairs before the accident. The shop may also be at fault if it installed a defective or inappropriate part.
Mechanical malfunctions can also be the result of negligent repair by a repair shop or the result of a repair shop using defective parts. A claim may arise from failing to notice major repairs that needed to be done, installing an inappropriate part, or performing the wrong procedure. Experts retained by the victim's attorney can determine the cause of an accident and determine whether it is appropriate to sue a manufacturer, seller, or repair shop in connection with mechanical malfunctions.