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Car Accidents Caused by Vehicle Manufacturing Defects

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Car Accidents Caused by Vehicle Manufacturing Defects

deployed airbag

An often-overlooked cause of motor vehicle accidents is auto defects and equipment malfunctions. Defective automobile components not only lead to accidents but can also lead to severe injuries or even fatalities, even in minor collisions.

“Unsafe at any speed” was famously said by Ralph Nader over 50 years ago when describing the Chevrolet Corvair. While the safety of automobiles has been drastically improved since then, many preventable injuries and deaths are attributed to vehicle defects. What is really troubling is the defective vehicle and vehicle parts not being identified as the cause of bodily injury or death.

It can take an experienced Sacramento personal injury lawyer, investigator, and expert working in unison to identify a car defect as the cause of injury or death after a traffic accident.

In this article:

What Are NHTSA Recalls?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) manages a comprehensive recall database encompassing motor vehicles, safety equipment, car seats, and tires, all in response to auto defects. Regrettably, not all vehicle defects find their way into the NHTSA dataset. Nevertheless, it is a valuable initial resource if you have reason to believe that a vehicle defect played a role in a collision, injury, or fatality. It’s important to note that this database should not be relied upon to definitively rule out a car defect as the cause of an injury.

Even if the defect is not reported by the NHTSA, it does not necessarily mean that an accident or injury was not caused by a faulty car or car part. If any of the following hallmarks are seen in a crash, an independent investigation needs to be completed before ruling out an auto defect:

  • A minor collision results in severe injury or fatality.
  • While one occupant of the vehicle experienced catastrophic injuries, the remaining passengers only incurred minor injuries.
  • Severe damage to just one area of the vehicle.
  • Individuals who had fastened their seat belts sustained severe injuries or were ejected from the vehicle during a rollover collision.
Seatback Failures in Auto Crashes

Seatbacks represent one of the most frequent safety equipment failures in vehicles. These components play a critical role in stabilizing an occupant’s torso and back during collisions, even at high speeds on the highway. When seatbacks, including those in the rear, collapse rearward during an accident, it may indicate a seat defect. Such issues can sometimes go unnoticed because first responders may need to move the seat to rescue the occupant. Car manufacturers often opt for cost-effective materials like plastic for rear seats, which are more prone to failure than front seats. This situation is particularly concerning because parents are often advised to place their children in the rear seat for safety reasons. However, when combined with a defective seatback and certain types of accidents, this can seriously threaten the lives of both adults and children seated in the rear.

Gas Tank Malfunction Leading to Fires and Explosions

Yet another alarmingly prevalent vehicle flaw relates to avoidable gasoline fires. Ideally, automobiles should be equipped with fuel systems that remain robust even in the event of a collision, and for the most part, they are. Nonetheless, there have been numerous instances where occupants survived the initial accident only to find themselves engulfed in flames due to a flawed fuel system that leaks gasoline onto heated engine components. To avert the risk of vehicular fires, gas tanks must be situated in secure locations, gas lines must be adequately shielded, and safety valves capable of shutting off gas flow upon detecting a leak must be firmly in place. Unfortunately, some auto manufacturers may prioritize cost-cutting over the inclusion of these critical safety measures.

Types of Tire Manufacturing Defects

Tire-related safety concerns present a significant risk of injury or even fatalities. It is essential to routinely inspect and maintain proper tire pressure, adhering to the guidelines on the tire’s sidewall and considering the manufacturer’s recommendations per weather and road conditions. However, even the most vigilant vehicle owners may be vulnerable to tire defects. A defective tire can lead to a devastating accident that may initially appear inexplicable until a thorough examination by an expert is conducted. With time, tires are prone to degradation, primarily due to wear and exposure to sunlight. While this aging phenomenon affects all tires, discerning the exact manufacturing date on a tire can prove challenging. As tires age, their vulnerability to tread separation increases substantially, heightening the risk of losing vehicle control. This risk is especially critical when driving high highway speeds, potentially leading to catastrophic outcomes.

Exacerbation of Injuries Caused by Airbag Deployment

Airbags have been another widespread defect responsible for many car accident injuries and deaths. A defective airbag can fail to deploy. In other cases, they can deploy at the wrong time or with excessive force. Airbags should be designed and manufactured to inflate by an explosive charge upon a triggering event such as a moderate-speed collision. Once the bag is inflated, it should fill the space by the passenger and the adjacent support structure. Once the passenger hits the bag, it is designed and manufactured to deflate. In all, the safety mechanism protects occupants’ heads, neck, and back from the forces generated by the collision when used in conjunction with seatbelts. While they are a great invention and should be standard in any modern vehicle, defects can make them more dangerous than not having any airbags. The last thing someone wants is for an airbag to deploy when you hit a pothole or not deploy when you are in an accident at highway speeds.

Seat Belt Defects and Failures

Seatbelts have been around since 1885. In 1959, they were upgraded from a lap belt to the three-point harness (lap and shoulder belt) found in most modern cars. Despite their long-term use and improvement, they can, and still are, designed and made in defective conditions that cause traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and death. Seat belts can be “false latch” due to a defect. This is when a seat belt appears and sounds like it is latched, but it is, in fact, not correctly fastened. This might not be readily apparent from the vehicle’s occupant, and the only way they find out is if it comes undone in an accident. Seatbelt failures are often called “unsecured” in traffic accident reports, but I do not know why. The locking mechanism can fail itself. This had come up recently when some manufacturers were using plastic rather than metal parts, which caused a failure in accident scenarios.

What Parents Should Know About Car Seat Recalls and Defects

Perhaps the most frightening defects are those in children’s car seats. Every state requires the use of a car seat, and many parents trust that car seats are safe. To help minimize the chance of a defect in a car seat, parents must be somewhat savvy to ensure that the car seat meets the least possible safety standards. The car seat should be labeled to say that the seat conforms to all federal safety requirements and have instructions on the seat use on the seat, the company’s name, and the date the car seat was made. If it does not have this information, this may be a defective car seat and should not be bought.

Once you buy a car seat from a reputable company, it must be appropriately installed. If you are unsure of the proper installation, many police and fire departments will gladly show you how to properly install the car seat. Even if the car seat owner does everything right, the seat could be defective. Car seat buckles or fasteners can have too much play in them, which can cause ejection from the seat. Or they can become too tight, which can prevent children from being extricated from the car or inhibit rescue in the event of an accident. Strap adjusters can also be faulty, which can make the straps deadly. Weak frames for the car seat can create structural instability that causes failures in accidents and cause catastrophic injuries to children.

What to Do After a Car Accident Caused by a Vehicle Defect

If a car defect is suspected, it is paramount to preserve the car for inspection by an expert. Failure to keep the vehicle in question will make it difficult or impossible to find the defect. Often, a person injured in an accident where the car is deemed totaled is pressured to release the vehicle from their possession and sign it to the insurance company. The pressure is from the car incurring substantial storage fees. If a defect is suspected, you must contact a personal injury lawyer with the proper experience to ensure that the evidence is preserved before its destruction or transference.

Preserving Evidence in Car Product Liability Claims

One vital piece of evidence in newer cars is the “black box.” This is similar to the black box that you hear that crews are searching for after a plane crash. Industry experts refer to the “black box” as the electronic control module (ECM). This device contains data about various aspects such as speed, seat belt usage, braking, acceleration, and airbag deployment, which can vary depending on the vehicle.

Motor Vehicle Accident Risks for Older Cars

As car technology grows, the potential for failure grows with it. The automation of vehicles is becoming more widely used, as pioneered by Tesla. The potential for catastrophic failure can’t be eliminated entirely. Due to the fast-paced technology upgrades, a three-year-old car no longer has up-to-date safety devices. While newer safety devices become more complicated, they become more prone to faults and failures. This can give rise to unexpected and unintended defects that can result in injury or even death.

When Should You File a Personal Injury Claim for a Car Accident?

If you have been injured in a car accident due to a defective vehicle or vehicle part, you may be entitled to financial compensation for those injuries and losses incurred. Upon a successful vehicle products liability claim, it may be possible to recover:

  • Past and future medical expenses for the treatment of injuries related to the defective vehicle accident
  • Past and future lost wages for time missed at work to recover from injuries and reduction in earning capacity if you cannot work because of your injury.
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages may be awarded under specific circumstances
  • Wrongful death of a loved one

Time is of the essence in a defective vehicle accident. You must file a lawsuit within two years of the crash to recover the compensation you need. This is by the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1. If you fail to file suit before the two-year statute of limitations expires, you may lose the right to sue for resulting personal injury damages. Watch the video below for details on factors that affect the value of personal injury claims.

Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident Caused by Defective Vehicle Parts?

After a motor vehicle accident caused by defective car parts and safety equipment, one of the first steps you should take after the crash is to consult with an experienced Sacramento auto products liability lawyer. A knowledgeable injury attorney with experience in dealing with insurance companies and challenges involved in a product liability claim can review the facts and evidence of your case. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights and responsibilities under the law and help you determine your best chances of a successful defective vehicle lawsuit. Dealing with the aftermath of a devastating traffic collision is not something you should do alone. Having a dedicated lawyer by your side can help ensure that you receive the fair compensation you deserve for your injuries and related losses.

Auto Products Liability Lawyers in Sacramento

A car accident caused by defective vehicle parts and equipment may lead to devastating injury or death to those involved. Like other types of personal injury cases, product liability law provides a way for people to be compensated after they have been injured or killed by negligence in the design and manufacturing of vehicle parts and equipment. To explore your legal options after a car accident you believe was caused as a result of faulty car parts and equipment, please call me at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 to receive my free, friendly case advice.

Editor’s note: updated 11.22.23 Image Source: By “Pixel-Mixer” via Pixabay jf ds [2283]