Car Defect Injury Claims

While others claim for ordinary personal injury for negligence after a vehicle accident by establishing a vehicle manufacturer or seller’s liability for the vehicle defect, you do not have to show or prove that they were careless. Instead, liability in motor vehicle defect cases is regulated by the principle of strict liability. Whatever steps the manufacturer or dealer may take in designing, assembling, or handling a motor vehicle, you can make claim using this strict liability which is basing the claim on the vehicle defects, without showing or proving the carelessness of the manufacturer or the dealer, if all of these conditions are present:

  • The vehicle or one of its parts had “unreasonably hazardous” defects that injured you. This defect can be from the design of the vehicle, during the manufacture, during the handling or shipment or by the failure to warn the customers of a hazardous aspect of the vehicle.
  • The defect caused an injury while the vehicle was being used the way it was intended to be used. As a sample, you may not be able to recover if a sports vehicle were used to cross the stream.
  • The vehicle had not been adequately changed from the condition where it was originally sold. Substantially here means how much it affected by the way the vehicle performs.

Defenses to Car Defect Claims

The manufacturer of the vehicle and/or the dealer may have a defense to your strict liability claims, especially if you owned the vehicle for some time, if it can be proven that you know about the defect but continued to use the vehicle. This is usually established may be through the vehicle’s condition where the manufacturer or seller’s insurance company will be able to test if you file a claim, or from your own description of your use of the vehicle. Manufacturers or sellers in some states may also be able to defend against your vehicle defect claim under the theory that your contributory or comparative negligence was the cause of, or a factor, of your injuries.

Punitive Damages

The latest trend in vehicle product liability cases is to increase the awards of punitive damages for those who successfully bring the claim against a manufacturer or seller. These punitive damage awards are beyond the damages to recompense a plaintiff for his or her injuries and can ring into the tens of millions of dollars in some cases. These punitive damages are aimed at punishing vehicle manufacturers and urge them to repair inherent defects in vehicle designs that resulted in injuries. In the past, vehicle manufacturers engaged in what is known as “cost-benefit” analysis in making a decision whether to change a potentially defective design of a vehicle. During this process, the manufacturer will compute the cost of implementing a design change, like vehicle recalls and repairs, and weigh that cost against the probable cost of litigation and settlement after the defect causes injuries. Punitive damages are usually given to add to the potential costs a manufacturer will face if it decides not to repair a design defect, thus transferring the cost-benefit analysis towards eliminating the defects.

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