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 What Is Strict Liability? What Is Product Liability?

Strict liability refers to a type of civil liability which does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm. A plaintiff can hold an individual or entity liable for damages or losses, without needing to prove intent or carelessness. The theory generally applies to circumstances which are considered to be inherently dangerous and/or hazardous.

Other types of civil liability, such as intentional torts or negligence, generally require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was somehow at fault for the damages incurred by the plaintiff.

However, in strict liability cases, the fault of the defendant is not an issue; rather, the plaintiff must prove that injuries or damages occurred, and they occurred because of the inherently dangerous and/or hazardous actions of the defendant.

In order for someone to be successful in a products liability claim, they must prove that:

  • There was a defect in the product when the product left the defendant’s possession;
  • The plaintiff was a foreseeable user of the product, who used the product as it was intended to be used;
  • The plaintiff was injured by the reasonable and expected use of the product; and
  • The injury was directly due to the product’s defective nature.

Manufacturers, distributors and retailers can all be held strictly liable. This is because of the principle that general consumers should not be injured without compensation simply because they cannot prove who in the distribution chain was responsible for the defective product.

The three defining types of defects in products liability cases are:

  • Manufacturing Defects: Any irregularities or flaws in a product that was mass-produced. A manufacturer is held strictly liable for any damages or injuries which the defective product causes;
  • Design Defects: The entire product line is defective because of faulty design. The manufacturer will be held strictly liable for the injuries and damages due to the design of the product. Additionally, if there was a cost-effective way to redesign the product to make it safe but the manufacturer did not utilize this design, the manufacturer can also be held responsible for any foreseeable injuries which occurred due to the design defects; and
  • Failure to Warn: A product manufacturer is legally required to warn consumers of any inherent, but not obvious, dangers associated with using the product.

What Is Automotive Product Liability?

Automotive product liability generally falls under the category of product liability. To reiterate, when a product is defective or is considered to be dangerous to the average consumer in some way, the incident could result in a product liability lawsuit. In terms of a defective vehicle, this would be a defective car lawsuit.

Generally speaking, a product liability claim involves a plaintiff filing a claim against a defendant in order to hold them responsible for providing a defective or dangerous product. The defendant is most commonly one of the following parties responsible for providing the product to consumers:

  • Distributor;
  • Wholesaler;
  • Manufacturer; and/or
  • Retailer.

It is important to note that under specific circumstances, it is not relevant whether the seller actually caused the defect. What actually matters is if the retailer was part of the supply chain that provided the defective or harmful products to consumers.

As previously mentioned, this would be known as a strict product liability lawsuit. Additionally, a plaintiff may bring a claim for negligence, or a breach of express or implied warranties.

What Are Brake Defects?

A brake failure is a specific type of automotive product defect which renders a vehicle out of control, causing damages to the automobile as well as others. Defects in brakes can turn what would have been a small accident into a severe accident, due to the failure to work properly when it should. Manufacturers of vehicles are required to adequately check the brake system for the vehicles they produce, in order to ensure that the brakes are functioning correctly and properly.

Once again, in order for injured vehicle owners and passengers to recover damages, they must proceed under a theory of strict liability. When someone is injured because of a brake failure that was caused by the manufacturer, the injured party may be entitled to compensation for damages to their person and/or their property.

Who Can Be Held Legally Liable For Brake Defects?

When determining whether to file a lawsuit against car manufacturers, especially for brake defects, it is imperative to first consider who else may actually be at fault for the defective vehicle. As previously discussed, product defects are most commonly categorized into one of three ways:

  • Design Defect: The vehicle’s defect was present before the product was even manufactured or assembled;
  • Manufacturing Defect: The vehicle has become dangerous, unsafe, or otherwise unfit for use, because of how the product was constructed and/or assembled; and/or
  • Marketing Defect: The vehicle’s manufacturer failed to include adequate warnings and information regarding the dangers associated with the use of the product.

In order to sue for an injury resulting from an automotive product defect, such as brake defect, the plaintiff must prove that the vehicle had an unreasonably dangerous defect which was the actual cause of their injury.

Additionally, they must prove that they were using the vehicle properly; meaning, using the vehicle as it was intended to be operated. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the vehicle was not substantially altered from the condition in which it was originally manufactured and sold.

Generally speaking, the injured party must provide proof that the manufacturer was negligent or careless in some way. Because automotive product defect cases are commonly based on the legal theory of product liability, the plaintiff may recover damages even if the vehicle’s manufacturer did not actually intend for the injuries to manifest. However, it is important to note that this would generally only occur when the plaintiff meets the above elements.

Common claims for brake liability involve manufacturing defects. If the brakes of a vehicle were defective and caused the accident, the plaintiff may be able to sue the manufacturer. Additionally, they may be able to sue the dealer who sold the car to the plaintiff, for selling a defective car.

It is also possible that a brake failure could be due to a mechanic’s negligence, if the brakes had recently been worked on by a mechanic. In order to hold the mechanic liable for the brake defect, the plaintiff would need to prove that the mechanic failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care when working on the brake. This failure left the brakes in a defective condition when they returned the vehicle to the driver.

Are There Any Legal Defenses Available? What Are Some Legal Remedies?

A brake manufacturer would likely claim contributory negligence as their defense by showing that the vehicle’s driver was using the brakes for an extended amount of time without having them maintained or serviced. If the vehicle was being used for purposes that were not in its original design, that fact could prove damaging to a plaintiff’s strict liability claim.

An example of this would be how if a vehicle’s owner continually took their vehicle in mountainous terrain, and the vehicle was not intended for such use, it might be viewed as unnecessarily wearing out the brakes.

In terms of legal remedies, brake manufacturers could be responsible for compensatory and punitive damages. What this means is that manufacturers would be responsible for all past and future medical expenses resulting from the accident, as well as other related damages such as missed income from missing work due to the accident.

Additionally, brake manufacturers may face punitive damages that would punish them for failing to fix or recognize serious defects in their brake designs.

Do I Need An Attorney For Help With A Brake Defect Case?

If you have been injured because of a brake defect, you should consult with an experienced and local automobile lawyer. An attorney can inform you of your rights and legal options under your state’s specific product liability and consumer laws. Your consumer attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.


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