When you buy a new car that you love and drive it off the lot for the first time, there’s a feeling of pride and exhilaration, especially if you worked out a good bargain with the dealer. It can be fun to hit the road in your new car and see what it can do. You turn on the radio and take the on ramp to the interstate, and look forward to trying out a little speed — legal, of course.
You get up to the speed limit for a good stretch, but then you hit a traffic jam and step on the brake to slow down. The problem is that you don’t.
You’re stepping on the brake and nothing is happening. It’s a brand new vehicle with a warranty, so the brakes shouldn’t be worn out.
You panic and swerve to avoid hitting the cars in front of you and end up rolling your brand new car on the median. You end up hospitalized with serious injuries — and a wrecked car that you haven’t even made your first payment on.
When we buy a product such as a new car, we expect it to work the way it’s supposed to. We expect it to be safe as long as we’re using it for its intended purpose. That’s part of the implicit contract with the manufacturer and the retailer when we purchase something. But sometimes products don’t work or don’t live up to the representations made by the people who manufactured or sold them.
When you get injured in an accident caused by a defective automobile, you may have a product liability claim. Through a product liability case, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life. A jury also may award punitive damages if the jury believes that the manufacturer or seller’s actions were reckless or intentional, and believes punitive damages would be an appropriate deterrent to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Product liability claims can be tricky. They usually involve technical information such as engineering schematics, and complex legal questions. If you’ve been injured by a defective product and want to pursue a claim, it’s definitely recommended that you consult with an experienced product liability lawyer who can help you navigate this potentially complicated matter and work to get you the compensation you deserve.
Common Auto Defects
Product defects generally fall into three categories:
- Design Defects — Flaws in the design of a product can render it dangerous when used in ways the company intended or could foresee
- Manufacturing Defects — Errors committed while making the product may render it dangerous
- Marketing Defects — Failing to provide proper instructions for use of the product or to include appropriate warnings may lead to injuries
When it comes to automobiles, there are certain kinds of defects that commonly result in injuries to drivers, passengers, or other people.
- Defective Air Bags — When air bags fail to deploy or deploys when you haven’t been in a collision, injuries may result.
- Defective Brakes — The ability to stop when needed is critical to safe driving, and brakes that don’t work will almost undoubtedly result in accident or injury.
- Defective Tires — When tires fail or blow out while you’re driving, you can lose control of your vehicle.
- Defective Roof — When a vehicle roof is defective, it may collapse and cause serious or fatal injuries in a crash or rollover.
- Defective Windshield — When windshields don’t have shatter-resistant glazing or the structural integrity of the windshield is weak, it may shatter in even a relatively mild impact and cause disfiguring lacerations from broken glass.
- Defective Gas Tank or Fuel Lines — Defects in gas tanks or fuel lines can cause vehicle fires or explosions that result in severe burns or death.
- Defective Seat Belts — Seat belts are designed to save lives during a crash by preventing occupants from knocking into parts of the vehicle or being ejected from the vehicle in a crash. When seat belts fail, serious injuries or death may be the result.
Liability for Auto Defects
It may seem like common sense that when a defect in an automobile causes injuries or death, the manufacturer should be liable. However, product liability law also allows for recovery of damages against other people in the supply chain, including distributors and sellers. So depending on the nature of the defect, you may have a claim against the auto manufacturer or against the dealer — or maybe both. An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer can help you identify the appropriate party that should be liable for your injuries.