Lawsuits for motor vehicle defects covers not only cars, but as well as trucks, vans, and motorcycles. In establishing a seller or manufacturer’s liability, you do not need to prove their carelessness, unlike in other personal injury claims where negligence should be proven as a factor for causing the injury. Manufacturers and sellers of motor vehicles are covered by the doctrine of strict liability where they do not need to be proven negligent.
Lawsuits for motor vehicle defects may be based on defects in any of the following parts:
- brakes and braking system
- fuel system
- engine assembly
- the body and frame
- transmission and drivetrain, and other parts and accessories
- cooling and temperature control system
- steering and suspension systems
- electrical system
- exhaust system
- lubrication system
- passenger compartment
Under strict liability, the manufacturer or seller may be liable if:
- Your injury was caused by the vehicle or any of its component part’s inherent unreasonable danger. It may be a result of the vehicle or component’s design, or may be caused by an error in the manufacturing process, or in the handling and shipment of the vehicle. Failure to warn customers of any dangerous risk in the use of the vehicle or component part may also make the manufacturer liable for the injuries caused.
- Injury happened while the vehicle was being used properly according to what it has been intended for. However, it may be difficult to claim any injury was caused by a defect if you use the vehicle for another purpose such as using a motorcycle exhaust to fan a campfire.
- There has been no drastic change or substantial modification made on the vehicle from the time of it was originally sold. Modification is considered substantial if it affects the performance of the vehicle.
Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuit Defenses
The manufacturer and/or the seller can make a defense against strict liability claims in certain instances. Usually, the claimant may have reduced chances of claiming for an injury if they have owned the vehicle for a significant period of time. It will also go against the claimant if they have known about the defect and still continued to use the vehicle. The vehicle’s condition at the time of the injury would be taken into consideration. In some states, the manufacturer or seller may claim in their defense that the injured party was just as liable for their own injuries because of their own neglect.
More and more punitive damages have been awarded in product liability cases. Punitive damages are awards to the claimant in addition to the actual damages awarded. The intention of punitive damages is to serve as a warning to other manufacturers, as well as a lesson to the manufacturers themselves, motivating them to rectify the flaws in their design, manufacturing and handling of the vehicles and avoid causing future injuries to other users.
Product liability claims may not be as simple as it looks. It is not just a matter of showing an injury and the product that caused it, but requires expert testimonies and evidences. There are also some very good defences that manufacturers and sellers can use against product liability claims.
Each state has its own product liability laws, so consult with an experiences personal injury lawyer if you or your loved one has suffered any injury due to a defective product.