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Defective Car Accident Lawsuits

UPDATED: October 28, 2013

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If you have been in a car accident caused by a defective car, your insurance claim or legal action will need to be adjusted to target the parties responsible.  Identifying a vehicle defect as the cause of a car accident can be a difficult process that requires not only legal, but automotive professionals, so do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney for assistance.

TIP:  Defective car accident claims will always involve attorneys representing the seller or manufacturer of the car or the defective part.  Hiring an attorney to represent you will give you the best chance to recover the money you need.

Defective Car Accident Liability

Responsibility for a defective vehicle accident is based on the legal theory of product liability which holds manufacturers legally responsible in two general scenarios:

  • Defectively manufactured vehicles or parts:  A defective vehicle or part claim arises when a specific part of the car does not function as it is supposed to.  A part may become defective at the time it is made, during the course of shipping, or while it is being installed in the car.
  • Vehicles with an unsafe design:  A defective vehicle accident claim of this type argues that the design of the car was unsafe.  In some cases, a car can be on the market for some time before consumers realize it has unsafe design features.

Proving defective vehicle liability in either case can be difficult and will involve evidence gathered an analyzed by professionals who can point out why a part is defective and what party, or parties, are responsible for the problem. 

Who to Sue in a Defective Car Accident Case

There are a number of parties that can be legally responsible for a car accident caused by defective parts.  Before taking insurance or legal action, consider all parties in the chain of distribution – or the path from the manufacturer to the consumer. 

  • Car Manufacturer:  The manufacturer should always be considered before filing a defective vehicle claim. 
  • Parts Manufacturer:  Every car manufacturer uses parts that are made by a separate company.  Depending on the type of defect, the maker of the part may be responsible for your accident.
  • Car Dealership or Parts Supply Shop:  In some states, the seller of the car or the defective part can share the liability for its defect.
  • Shipping Company or Middleman:  Any other company that shipped the part, stored the part, distributed the part or otherwise participated in the chain of distribution should be considered.  Sometimes parts pick up defects when handled by a company between the manufacturer and the consumer, so closely look at all options.
  • Used Car Dealer:  If the car was purchased used, some manufacturer warranties may no longer be valid, however, the seller of the used car can be liable if they failed to inspect the vehicle for safety. 

When pursuing a defective car accident claim, you can go after more than one party.  Closely examine the cause of your accident and the nature of the part defect to include every party who is, or could be, responsible for the problem.

Proving a Defective Vehicle Accident Claim

In order to prove that you deserve compensation for a car defect that led to an accident, you will need to show:

  • You suffered an injury or property loss,
  • The vehicle was defective in either its manufacture or design, and
  • The manufacturing defect was the cause of your accident and injury

Proving the second and third bullet point can be difficult, and will likely require an expert to examine the defective part and the nature of the accident to determine if the defect was the cause of the crash.  Car and part manufacturers will attempt to show that some other issue caused the crash – such as poor driving or misuse of the part.

Part or vehicle manufacturers can avoid product liability claims if they can prove:

  • The part or the vehicle was misused
  • The defective part was removed and re-installed by you
  • Some other factor caused the accident and the defective part did not contribute to injuries

As you prepare a defective car accident claim, you will need to have sufficient evidence that identifies the part as defective AND connects the defect to the cause of your crash.  Because obtaining proof can be difficult, and because defendants typically have experienced legal teams, you should consult an attorney before taking any legal action.

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