When Can You Sue a Car Manufacturer for an Accident?

Some car accident injuries are the fault of a careless driver, but others may be the result of a car manufacturer selling a dangerous product to the public. Defects in a vehicle can directly cause a dangerous accident, such as when a brake line failure prevents someone from stopping. Alternatively, a defective vehicle can make the injuries caused by an accident much more severe compared to if the victim had been inside a vehicle with a non-defective design.

Car manufacturers have a significant amount of legal and financial resources available, so those who intend to pursue a liability claim against them should know what factors tend to separate the cases that succeed from the ones that don’t. Working with an experienced car accident attorney in West Palm Beach can provide additional legal guidance. Your attorney will help you build a strong case and back it up with the type of evidence that compels juries and insurers.

To help you understand which circumstances might suggest you have a strong claim, below are some of the factors that can indicate when a car manufacturer is potentially liable for a defective product.

Types of Vehicle Defects

When talking about products liability law, there are three main types of defects that a person could sue for after they have sustained an injury:

  • Design defects: The vehicle was defective and likely to cause injury by virtue of its design, such as a vehicle with an insufficiently strong rear pillar to prevent the roof from crushing.
  • Manufacturing defects: The methods used to manufacture the vehicle led to an unreasonable safety risk, such as a transmission that is likely to experience catastrophic failures in traffic.
  • Marketing defect: The manufacturer promised a particular use of the vehicle that was inherently unsafe, such as a lane monitoring system that implies the driver can take their hands completely off the wheel.

The main proving to show is that a product presented an unreasonable risk of harm to its users. Furthermore, for a car accident victim to pursue a claim for any of the above defects, they must have had an injury or significant financial losses directly caused by the defect while the vehicle was being used as intended. In other words, it is not enough to simply point out that a danger exists or that a product was poorly made; that product must have also led to some sort of measurable damages that the injury victim can recover through the legal system.

Defective Vehicle Examples

The following represents just some of the types of defects that have enabled injury victims to recover compensation from a vehicle manufacturer:

  • Defective brakes
  • Defective vehicle safety systems
  • High risk of rollover
  • Defective steering components
  • Sudden, unintended airbag deployment
  • Defective tires
  • Transmission failure

Showing that a vehicle defect directly violates state or federal laws and regulations can greatly aid a case, but it is not necessary. In fact, many safety regulations and legislation are passed in response to the result of a successful injury claim.

Defining the Vehicle Defect’s Role in the Crash and the Resulting Injury

Many types of common vehicle defects can directly cause a crash or contribute to the circumstances of a crash. For example, a number of vehicles from a specific manufacturer experienced a scenario where the accelerator pedal got stuck, causing the vehicles to speed out of control and likely collide with another vehicle or object. The resulting litigation forced the manufacturer to settle with injury victims or their surviving family members and pay significant punitive fines.

In other circumstances, a vehicle defect may not have contributed to a crash but allowed a collision to pose an unreasonable threat to others’ safety. Safety regulations and crash standards require a vehicle to have a minimum amount of “crashworthiness,” and if the vehicle is later found out to not be suitably safe, then it could be considered a defective product that led to an injury.

Examples of crashworthiness-related defects that can cause a collision to become especially harmful include:

  • Fuel tanks that aren’t protected from combustion
  • Structural integrity can’t survive a moderate-speed impact
  • The roof was not strong enough to protect occupants after a rollover
  • Seat belts, airbags, doors, and windows failed to immobilize occupants
  • Energy from impact forces was not sufficiently directed away from occupants
  • Airbags failed to deploy
  • Child car seat failed to protect as intended
  • Failed window glazing
  • Occupant was ejected
  • Vehicle systems or design impeded rescue efforts

Vehicle Defects as a Contributing Factor to a Crash Injury

A car accident injury victim does not need to prove that a vehicle defect was the sole reason they got hurt. They merely have to show that the defect caused additional damages that would have been avoided had the vehicle been reasonably safe.

However, there are circumstances where it can be difficult or impossible to prove that a defective vehicle caused or contributed to an injury. The most common scenario is that a crash was so bad that the vehicle manufacturer can allege that the occupants would have been injured regardless of whether or not a defect existed.

Some court systems will reduce victims’ awards or deny them the ability to file a claim altogether if there was more than one contributing factor to the accident injury.

Florida has a “pure comparative negligence” law that reduces your award according to the vehicle manufacturer’s approximate percentage of fault for the damages. If a car accident attorney in West Palm Beach secures a $500,000 award for injuries in a case where a vehicle manufacturer was deemed 50% at-fault, then the manufacturer pays just $250,000 of the total award.

Fighting Common Vehicle Manufacturer Liability Defenses with a West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney

There are a number of possible defenses a manufacturer can use to refute or reduce their volume of liability for an injury. One possible defense is that the user of the vehicle failed to operate the vehicle as intended. Another is that it was technologically impossible or economically infeasible to produce a safer version of the product.

Hiring a car accident lawyer in West Palm Beach can allow you to prepare for these types of defenses and build a strong case pointing to manufacturer liability. Your attorney will vigorously document all evidence contributing to a narrative that a vehicle defect caused your injury, and they will help you estimate the full extent of your damages — past and future — with the assistance of medical and economic experts.

Learn more about your options for pursuing the maximum available compensation after your accident from vehicle manufacturers or other parties when you call (800) 560-5059 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

About The Author

Michael Steinger

Michael Steinger

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.