If you have been injured in a car crash, your first instinct may be to sue the driver. In some cases, however, the company that manufactured one of the cars involved or its components may bear some responsibility for the accident. For example, a defective brake may cause a rear-end collision, a defective tire may blow out, or a flaw in the steering of an SUV may cause a rollover. If someone else who was injured in a crash is suing you, meanwhile, you may be able to avoid liability if you can show that a defect in one of the cars caused the accident rather than your careless driving.
While a personal injury claim against a driver is based on proving their negligence, or carelessness, a personal injury claim against a manufacturer is usually based on strict liability. The question of whether a manufacturer was careless thus does not make a difference in determining fault. This can make a claim easier to prove, assuming that a defect played some role in causing the accident. However, a manufacturer may litigate a case more aggressively than a driver’s insurer and may be more reluctant to settle. Negligence and product liability claims are not mutually exclusive, and you can include all of the applicable defendants in your complaint.
Types of Auto Defects
Defects in cars usually fall into the categories of either manufacturing defects or design defects. A manufacturing defect involves a vehicle or part that deviated from its intended specifications because of a mistake during the process of making it or delivering it to the consumer. By contrast, a design defect occurs when a manufacturer’s intended design for a car contains a flaw that makes it unreasonably dangerous. These cases sometimes involve cars that were not recalled from the market or consumer use when the manufacturer found out about the defect.
To prove liability in a case involving a manufacturing defect, you would need to show that you were injured specifically because of the defect. In a case based on a design defect, you might need to show that a safer alternative design was available that would not have required a significant additional cost.
Whom to Sue for an Auto Defect
Several different entities are involved in the chain of production and distribution for motor vehicles. The manufacturer and parts manufacturers are the main entities that are responsible for making a car and its components. Sometimes the manufacturer of a certain part will be different from the manufacturer of the vehicle overall. Only the parts manufacturer will be responsible if you purchased the defective part separately after you had already bought the car, such as if you bought a new set of tires. Otherwise, you probably can name both companies in your claim, since the car manufacturer also may be responsible for using a defective part.
If the car appears to have been damaged during the process of shipping it, you may be able to sue the shipping company or a distributor that brought the car from the manufacturer to the dealership. In some situations, you also may be able to sue the dealership or other entity that sold the car or the defective part. (If someone else bought the car or part, you still can sue this type of defendant.)
The law regarding auto defects becomes more complicated and uncertain when used cars are involved. It may be more challenging to determine when the defect originated, and the dealer who sold you the used car may or may not be liable. You should consult an attorney in your state to determine your specific options.