When it comes to automobiles, there are many different legal issues that may arise surrounding both the purchase and operation of the automobile. Purchasing an automobile is one of the biggest purchases that an individual will make in their lifetime.
As such, if there are any issues concerning the safety or operation of a vehicle that was purchased by a consumer, that consumer may wish to hold the individual or company responsible for such defects.
Automobile product liability falls under the category of product liability. Product liability is the set of written laws that hold a manufacturer or seller of a product accountable for placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. It is important to note that each state has a different set of laws regarding product liability.
However, generally speaking under product liability laws, any party that is responsible for any part of the manufacture of a defective product can be held liable for any injuries that result from the operation of that defective product.
For example, in the process of creating a new automobile there are often numerous different parties that are involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the vehicle. For instance, one manufacturer may create the engine, while another manufacturer may create the frame of the vehicle, the airbags, or an electronic component.
After all of the pieces of the automobile are brought together, one party will typically be in charge of assembling the vehicle into its final state. Then, another party may be responsible for safely distributing the automobile to a wholesaler, who in turn will supply the automobile to an automobile dealer. Then, the automobile will finally reach the consumer.
If the resulting automobile that was created is defective, then any of the following parties involved may be held liable for any resulting injuries:
- The assembling manufacturer that assembled the automobile together;
- The wholesaler that sold and distributed the automobile to the auto dealerships;
- The dealer that sold the automobile to the consumer; and/or
- The manufacturer of the specific part of the automobile that was found to be defective.
Product liability law is one of the distinct categories of law that involves automobiles.In addition to product liability, another common legal issue surrounding automobiles involves the actual operation of the motor vehicle.
What Types of Damages are Available in an Automobile Lawsuit?
The most common legal issue regarding the operation of automobiles falls under the category of personal injury law. Personal injury claims are legal actions in which an injured person known as a plaintiff seeks to recover damages regarding their physical, mental, property, or emotional injuries.
These losses are generally the result of some sort of accident that involved the operation of the automobile. If the injured party files a claim or lawsuit against the person who injured them, then they will typically request some form of financial compensation. This compensation is commonly referred to as compensatory damages, as the damages are to compensate the recipient for the injuries they suffered.
Compensatory damages are intended to cover all of the typical losses that result from an auto accident. Some of the most common examples of compensatory damages include, but may not be limited to:
- The cost to repair or replace the plaintiff’s damaged vehicle, including the cost of renting a replacement vehicle while repairs are being made;
- The costs of the injured party’s medical care, such as the costs of medical treatment, medicine, facility bills, and/or physical or mental therapy;
- The total amount of a plaintiff’s lost wages that were a result of them being unable to work as a result of the accident; and
- Damages regarding a plaintiff’s pain and suffering.
In addition to the above damages, it is also possible to collect compensation for losses that will be experienced in the future. For example, an injured person might not be able to work at the same kind of job that they had before the accident. In such cases, the plaintiff would then be able to collect for any financial loss that this causes.
To reiterate, compensatory damages are generally awarded for the purpose of restoring the injured person or party to the position they were before they were injured by the automobile. As such, compensatory damages are only awarded in cases where damages, injuries, or losses have occurred.
There are two main types of compensatory damage that are awarded special damages and general damages. Special damages are intended to restore the injured party to the position they were in before they suffered the harm or injury. This most commonly includes damages that can be calculated, such as the list of damages above.
General damages are losses that may be awarded for losses that are not easily determined through monetary calculations. Examples of general damages can include losses associated with emotional distress and/or loss of consortium or companionship. State laws can vary considerably in terms of compensatory damages. For example, some states may place limits on compensatory damages.
In addition to the above damages, punitive damages may also be available in automobile personal injury lawsuits. Punitive damages is additional money that negligent drivers may be ordered to pay if they demonstrated intentional misconduct or extreme recklessness. For example, in cases of extreme recklessness, such as speeding well above the speed limit, punitive damages may be available to punish the actions of the wrongdoer.
What Are Other Common Automobile Lawsuits?
As mentioned above, the most common automobile lawsuits are product liability lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits surrounding the purchase and use of automobiles. However, there are many other legal issues regarding automobiles. For example, legal issues may arise concerning insurance claims, warranty claims, and criminal actions.
Below is a list of common automobile legal claims that may arise regarding automobiles:
Automobile Insurance Claims
- What Does My Automobile Insurance Cover?
- What Types of Policy Terms Can Affect Auto Insurance Coverage?
- Medical Insurance
- What Are The Differences Between “No-Fault” and “At-Fault” States?
- What if I’m Injured by an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver?
- When Can My Automobile Insurance Company Deny My Claim?
- Automotive Product Liability
- Rollover Roof Crushing Accidents
- Suing for a Car Defect
- Defective Airbag Systems
- Door Latch Failure
- Seatback Failures
- Automotive Mechanic Liability
- Fuel Fed Car Fires
- SUV Rollover
- Car Brake Defects
- Vehicle Structural Defects
- Rental Car Liability
- Parking Lot and Garage Damages
- How Do I Know if My Car is a Lemon?
- I Think My Car is a Lemon. What Should I Do?
- Does My State Only Cover New Cars under Lemon Laws?
- Vehicular Assault
- Speeding and Other Automobile Moving Violations
- Driving while intoxicated (“DWI”)
- Driving under the influence of drugs (“DUID”)
- Driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”)
- Vehicular Manslaughter
- Vehicle Homicide
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Automobile Lawsuits?
If you or someone you know have any issues regarding the purchase or use of an automobile, then it may be in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney in your area. If the legal issue concerns a defective automobile or an injury that was a result of the use of an automobile, then you should immediately contact an experienced auto lawyer to represent you.
An experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with your state’s specific personal injury and product liability laws can inform you of your legal rights and options according to those laws. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.
Criminal and civil automobile lawsuits often go hand in hand. As such, if you have been accused of any criminal accusation concerning an automobile you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Criminal accusations regarding automobiles may result in severe criminal penalties such as heavy criminal fines and imprisonment. As such, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial in order to ensure that you are able to form your best legal defense.