A defective motor vehicle is a specific type of defective product. Defective products are those that are unreasonably dangerous when being used for its intended purpose, without any alterations or interference. Defective products can cause injury to a person due to either a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a marketing defect. Manufacturers, retailers, or sellers of a product are held responsible for allowing defective products to reach the consumer by the legal theory of product liability.
In most states, the legal definition of motor vehicle in terms of defect claims include trucks, vans, buses, and motorcycles. Defective motor vehicle claims typically involve an automobile failing to perform according to the proper industry standards. This can create a very dangerous situation while a person is driving, especially when on the highway or a busy road where there are so many other drivers are present and susceptible to danger.
In some cases, the motor vehicle defects do not appear until later on, such as when the vehicle has already been operated and had some usage. This type of defect is often referred to as a latent defect.
Generally, a motor vehicle defect refers to flaws that create safety hazards or may result in the injury of the driver or passenger(s). Therefore, aesthetic flaws such as botched paint or a misplaced decal are not typically the subject of a defective motor vehicle claim.
What Are Some Common Examples of Vehicle Defects and Defective Vehicle Injuries?
Some of the most common examples of vehicle defects include:
- Brake and gas pedal defects, such as the pedals getting stuck or jammed;
- Safety equipment defects, such as safety belt or airbag failure;
- Flaws within the cooling, fuel, and exhaust systems;
- Misaligned steering mechanisms;
- Structural problems, such as with the frame, body, transmission, or engine assembly; and
- Electrical and computer issues, such as defective keyless fobs.
These dangerous defects are not only inconvenient and costly to repair or replace. They could also lead to severe injury. Some of the most common examples of vehicle defect injuries claims include:
- Head, neck, and spinal injuries, such as those due to faulty brakes;
- Collarbone injuries, such as those due to defective seat belts and safety harness systems; and
- Collision related injuries due to brake failure, such as whiplash.
In order to file a product liability claim, the vehicle does not necessarily need to be inoperative. An example of this would be the previously mentioned “sticky” gas pedal. Once again, an injured party merely needs to demonstrate that a portion of the vehicle was defective enough to cause an injury, in order to bring a lawsuit.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for a Defective Motor Vehicle?
As previously mentioned, defects are generally categorized into one of three ways:
- Design defect, meaning the defect was present before the item was even manufactured or assembled;
- Manufacturing defect, meaning the product has become dangerous, unsafe, or unfit for use due to the way it was constructed or assembled; or
- Marketing defect, meaning the manufacturer has failed to include adequate warnings and information regarding the dangers associated with the use of the product.
In order to recover losses for an injury resulting from a defective motor vehicle, the plaintiff (person bringing the lawsuit) will need to prove that the motor vehicle had an unreasonably dangerous defect that caused their injury. Additionally, a plaintiff must also prove that they were using the vehicle properly as it was intended to be used. Finally, the plaintiff must show demonstrate that the vehicle had not been substantially altered from the condition in which it was originally manufactured and sold.
Typically, the injured party would need to provide proof that the vehicle’s manufacturer was somehow negligent or careless. However, defective motor vehicle cases are generally based on the legal theory of products liability, as mentioned before. As such, even if the vehicle’s manufacturer did not intend for the injuries to occur, the plaintiff may still be able to recover damages upon meeting the above elements. This remains true even if the vehicle’s manufacturer was not necessarily reckless in their actions or lack thereof.
If the court finds that the vehicle’s manufacturer did in fact issue a defective product, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages associated with their injuries. These damages will typically include amounts to reimburse the plaintiff for costs associated with hospital bills, missed work due to the injury, and any necessary therapy or rehab bills.
Some defective motor vehicle cases may even result in a class action lawsuit, or a recall of the defective motor vehicle or part. Additionally, some courts will order punitive damages against the defendant in order to dissuade them from repeating their actions in the future.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuit?
If you believe you have been injured or affected by a defective motor vehicle, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable defective product attorney. An experienced defective product attorney may know of any current class action lawsuits against the manufacturer that you could join. Additionally, an attorney can also help you collect evidence supporting your claim, and file a lawsuit on your behalf. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court as needed.