Exploring the issues involved in automotive product liability cases
Many lawyers think product liability cases involving cars in some states, such as Michigan, are essentially dead. But every year, there are defective seat belt cases, airbag cases, rollover and tire cases and other cases that are caused by defective and unsafe cars – not by negligent drivers.
Although great strides have been made, thanks to product liability attorneys over the years, defective automotive products continue to cause many serious accidents and injuries.
The second problem I see as an attorneys who focuses on helping people involved in auto accident litigation is that most lawyers focus only on the underlying auto accident case, and miss entirely the potential product liability case. This means that in many car accidents, a $20,000 minimum bodily injury policy is pursued by the lawyer, but the potential multi-million dollar defective seat belt that caused or contributed to catastrophic injuries or even death are never followed up on. The consequences are beyond tragic for the victims. In particular, experienced product liability lawyers will look for clues that an auto accident victim’s injuries were caused by product defects that fall into either of the following four broad categories:
- Defective automotive designs that cause injury to a vehicle’s occupants, regardless of whether an auto accident has occurred.
- Defective automotive designs that cause an auto accident.
- Defective automotive designs which failed to ensure that necessary safety features to protect the vehicle’s occupants were built into the vehicle.
- Defective safety features that failed to work and, thus, failed to protect the vehicle’s occupants.
Specific automotive product defects that are known to cause injury to auto accident victims include:
- Airbags that fail to deploy properly during a crash.
- Airbags that deploy without reason, such as when no accident has occurred or when the crash is “minor” in nature.
- Counterfeit airbags.
- The vehicle was not equipped with “Electronic Stability Control” and/or the ESC system that is installed did not work properly to prevent the driver’s loss of control and, thus, prevent an accident.
- Seat belts improperly “released” during an accident, rather than restraining the vehicle’s occupants.
- Seat belts improperly fail to “retract” during a crash and, thus, fail to restrain the vehicle’s occupants.
- The vehicle’s design failed to include an “All Belts To Seat” (ABTS) system and/or pretensioner seat belt system, and/or those systems failed to work properly.
- Tire “tread separation” that results from either faulty design and/or manufacturing.
- A vehicle’s design improperly allows it to rollover, rather than safely skid to a halt, when faced with hazardous, but likely, road conditions and challenges.
- A vehicle’s design fails to construct a roof structure that safely protects vehicle occupants in the event of a rollover collision, and/or the roof structure fails to protect as designed.
- A vehicle’s design fails to prevent a collision-related explosion or fire (originating in the gas tank or gas supply lines).
- The wrong type of glass was installed in a vehicle to prevent its occupants from being ejected from the vehicle as a result of a crash or collision.
- A vehicle’s “seatbacks” collapse, rather than support the vehicle’s occupants, during a crash.
- A child’s car seat fails to stay in position during a crash and/or fails to properly restrain its child occupant.