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Motor Vehicle Defects and Manufacturer Liability: What You Need to Know

Motor vehicles are highly complicated mechanical devices with thousands of individual components. Unfortunately, a problem with any number of these components, from computer chips to brake pads, can mean serious injury to vehicle occupants, other motorists or pedestrians.

Over 40,000 lives are lost every year on American highways, and traffic accidents are the number one cause of disabling injuries; under the wrong circumstance, a car can be an incredibly dangerous instrument. Considering the nature of their products, automakers bear a special responsibility for roadway safety. Any time an automotive defect is responsible for causing or exacerbating an injury, it is important to recognize that auto manufacturers may be held legally liable for damages.

Basics of Motor Vehicle Defect Lawsuits

Generally, there are two broad categories of motor vehicle defects: manufacturing defects and design defects. Manufacturing defects typically involve some flaw in the production process that affects a handful of vehicles (e.g., faulty transmissions were installed in a dozen automobiles out of a manufacturing run of 2,000, or several automobiles were sold after their tires were damaged while being shipped to the dealer). Design defects, on the other hand, make a product dangerous by nature, and often affect an entire product line (for instance, if a particular SUV was highly susceptible to rollovers). In addition to manufacturing and design defects, a failure to warn of a known danger inherent to a product may also be legally actionable.

Unlike many types of personal injury claims, a carmaker’s liability for injuries caused by a defect does not necessarily depend on a showing of neglect. Rather, manufacturers may be held strictly liable for damages resulting from a vehicle defect.

Three conditions must be met to establish a vehicle manufacturer’s strict liability. First, the vehicle or one of its components must have been sold with an unreasonably dangerous defect, and this defect must have caused injury to the person or persons bringing the lawsuit. Second, the injury must have occurred while the automobile was being used as intended (for example, recovery may be barred if an injury resulted from towing a heavier load than was recommended for a passenger car). Finally, the vehicle must not have been substantially altered from the state in which it was sold.

Effect of Recalls on Automaker Liability

Many consumers are misinformed about the role of recalls in automaker liability lawsuits. By law, a manufacturer’s recall for a safety-related defect is a remedy in addition to other available legal remedies. This means that if a vehicle defect caused injury to you or loved one, you should be entitled to compensation in a legal suit even if a recall has been issued for the product at issue.

One caveat should be noted: if it can be shown in court that you knew about a safety defect, but continued to use a vehicle anyway, an automaker may have a defense to your car defect claim. Of course, it is not uncommon for drivers to be unaware of vehicle defects, and even when recalls are issued, they are not always well-publicized.

Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Handle Automotive Defect Claims

In a motor vehicle accident, often it is not apparent when an auto defect played a role. A lawyer can help investigate the true causes behind a crash, and will ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve from responsible parties. If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash, contact an experienced Philadelphia products liability lawyer today. To schedule a free initial consultation with a member of the legal team at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, call us today at 215-569-8488 or contact us online.