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Defects in Design, Manufacturing and Maintenance of Motor Vehicles


Sometimes an accident will occur, or injuries will be made worse, by virtue of a defect in a motor vehicle involved in the accident.

Defects in Design and Manufacture

Design and manufacturing defects can contribute both to the cause of a car accident, or to the magnitude of the injuries suffered in a car accident. While motor vehicles are for the most part much safer today than in the past, design and manufacturing errors still occur. Common problems include:

Defective Tires - In recent years there have been some high profile cases where defects in the manufacture of tires led to a high rate of failure, and thus to a number of accidents.

Defective Seatbelts - The failure of a seatbelt to restrain a properly belted driver during the course of an accident can provide a basis for a product liability claim.

Defective Airbags - Although airbags have been substantially improved so as to reduce the risk to smaller or lighter passengers, they still can pose risk of injury through their deployment. Even when everything works as it is supposed to, drivers can suffer bruises or burns from airbags. Also, sometimes airbags fail to deploy. When an airbag does not deploy, or directly causes an injury, it can be worthwhile to explore whether a design or manufacturing defect contributed to the failure or injury.

Insufficient Structural Integrity - Manufacturers should anticipate that as a result of motor vehicle accidents, a vehicle may roll over, perhaps ending up on its roof. A vehicle that is not sufficiently designed or constructed may suddenly collapse on its passengers.

High Susceptibility to Rollover - Sometimes the design of a vehicle will result in its having a high center of gravity which, if not properly considered in the vehicle's overall design, can cause it to be unduly prone to rolling over. Where a vehicle rolls over following a sudden turn at highway speeds, or in another circumstance or accident where rollover would be unlikely, it is worth exploring whether the vehicle's design played a role in the accident.

Defects from Modification and Poor Maintenance

Factors in maintenance and modification which can contribute to motor vehicle accidents include:

Poor Maintenance of Brakes - Obviously, brake failure can be a significant factor in causing an accident, as an unexpected brake failure may leave a driver unable to slow or stop in order to maintain control of a vehicle, or to avoid a collision.

Poor Maintenance of Tires - Tire blowouts from old, worn, or improperly patched tires can result in an accident.

Dangerous Modifications - Sometimes drivers will make after-market modifications to their cars, without regard for the laws or vehicle safety regulations. Sometimes the modifications will diminish the safety of their vehicle, will impede their ability to properly observe the roadway, or will increase the danger to others as a result of collision. Excessively bright headlights or foglights, for example, can blind oncoming drivers. Where after-market modifications are performed by a company, that company may also face liability if the modifications contribute to an accident or injury.

Older vehicles may be subject to axle failure, suspension failure, or a steering mechanism failure. When such failures occur on newer vehicles they may suggest a design or manufacturing defect in the vehicle. Routine maintenance and inspection can help prevent a mechanical failure from causing or contributing to accident or injury. Drivers should also heed manufacturer recall notices.

Product Liability Litigation

When a design or manufacturing defect contributes to an accident or injury, it may be appropriate to bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the defective vehicle. Auto manufacturers tend to be very skilled in defending against product liability claims, and have significant resources to pay for the defense of such actions. It thus makes sense to have any potential product liability claim reviewed by a lawyer who has expertise with motor vehicle product liability laws, and who has the skills and resources to pursue a complex claim against a major corporation.