Products Liability in Car Accidents: When Neither Driver Is at Fault

When most people think about assigning fault for a traffic accident, they focus on the drivers, assuming that one of them must have made a mistake. While this is probably true in a majority of car accidents, there may be another set of parties to hold responsible: the car manufacturers. Last year, there were more than 1,000 vehicle safety recalls affecting over 35 million vehicles. These production errors can result in serious, even fatal car crashes. Fortunately, the law does provide a way for victims to recover for injuries caused by careless car manufacturers: products liability law.

How Products Liability Works

Ordinarily, the plaintiff in a product liability case must prove two things. First, they must show that the defendant manufactured or sold the plaintiff’s car and that they were in the business of making or selling cars. Second, the plaintiff must show that they were injured as a result of an unreasonably dangerous defect in the car. Third, they must show that the defect existed when the plaintiff received the car. The first and third parts of that are reasonably simple factual matters; either the company made the car or it did not. However, determining exactly what qualifies as “unreasonably dangerous” is a much more complicated task.

Types of Unreasonably Dangerous Defects

The law recognizes three separate ways that a car can be unreasonably dangerous. First, a car can be unreasonably dangerous based on a design defect. A design defect arises when the car’s designers made it in such a way that there is some built-in flaw, such as a sharp piece of metal that easily punctures a gas tank during crashes. The law recognizes two separate tests for determining whether a design is defective. Either the plaintiff can show that the flaw makes the car more dangerous than a consumer would reasonably expect, or they can show that the benefits of the design are insufficient to justify the dangerous design.

The second type of unreasonably dangerous defect is the manufacturing defect. These defects are not built in by design, but instead, they arise as a result of a mistake in the manufacturing of the car. For instance, if a car has a defective brake line installed that snaps, causing a person’s brakes to fail, that would be a manufacturing defect.

The final type of defect is a failure to warn. Failure to warn does not arise as a result of a problem with the product, but rather relates to a failure on the part of the manufacturer to warn the injured party of some non-obvious danger that could arise from using the car. Similarly, it can also arise if the manufacturer or seller provided inadequate instructions on the use of some features of the car.

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a defective or dangerous product responsible for car accidents, contact one of our Virginia defective product attorneys to discuss what type of personal injury claim you may have. The legal team at Shapiro, Appleton Washburn & Sharp has been advocating for victims and their families for more than three decades. We have successfully represented many clients in obtaining the financial compensation they deserved through a personal injury lawsuit. Call our office today for a free and confidential case evaluation.