Whether it is a tire that is worn and causes a vehicle to spin out of control, or a safety belt that fails to secure a passenger, faulty automotive parts can cause accidents and cost lives. Nationwide it is estimated that mechanical failures are a factor in 13% of all automobile accidents. Depending on the cause of the defect, the vehicle manufacturer, parts manufacturer, repair shop, or vehicle owner may be held liable for the injuries and fatalities these defects cause.
Poorly Designed Parts
When a poorly designed part fails, an auto accident lawyer can seek to hold the vehicle manufacturer, parts manufacturer, or parts supplier liable for the property damage, personal injuries, or fatalities the part failure is responsible for.
In 2015, Goodyear recalled 32,000 Fortera tires that were installed on SUV’s manufactured by GM after it was discovered that the tread on these tires could come apart during operation. In 2000, nearly 6.5 million Firestone tires installed on SUV’s were recalled following multiple fatality accidents. The accidents were caused by faulty treads that could peel away from the casing when the vehicle traveled at highway speeds.
Many brake failures are caused by poorly designed brake systems. Common design problems include hydraulic lines that leak, calipers or discs that are easily cracked, and faulty computers linked to antilock brake systems. These problems can cause rear-end accidents, or cause the vehicle to roll as it is pulled in the direction of the malfunctioning brake.
It is estimated that up to 1 in 3 seat belts may not function properly during an automobile accident. Seat belt defects include latches that don’t close properly but appear closed, latches that can open upon a slight impact, or buckles that fail to open following an accident. Other defects include retractors that don’t lock in place when an accident occurs.
Airbags that are poorly designed may inflate without an accident taking place, or may inflate so violently during an accident that they cause injuries. As of 2016, faulty Takata airbags accounted for 16 deaths around the world; 11 of which were in the United States. These deaths were caused by a faulty inflator filled with ammonium nitrate. Upon detonation, these faulty airbags launched shrapnel into vehicle occupants. To date, it’s estimated that up to 60 million vehicles were equipped with these airbags.
Faulty Sensors & Monitors
As cars have become more complex, vehicle designers and manufacturers have incorporated numerous computers and sensors into their design. This can lead to problems such as Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) SUA can cause the vehicle operator to lose control of both the vehicle’s speed and direction. Similarly, faulty fuel pumps can cause the vehicle to stall or accelerate without warning.
Another common problem can occur with keyless ignition systems. Many keyless ignition systems installed by some of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers are prone to faulty starts. These can cause the vehicle to start or shut off without warning. When the vehicle is stationary and in a garage, this can cause fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. When it occurs on the road, it can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle’s forward motion and steering.
Other problems include faulty proximity warning sensors that can cause drivers to strike pedestrians or nearby vehicles. While most of these accidents occur at low-speed, these accidents can cause whiplash to vehicle occupants or crushing injuries to anyone the vehicle rolls over.
Accidents Caused by Poor Maintenance
When an accident is caused by poor maintenance, the liability for the accident may fall to the vehicle owner, or to any mechanic or repair shop responsible for maintaining the vehicle.
Tire Maintenance & Accidents
NHTSA studies have shown that roughly 5% of all vehicles experience tire problems prior to being involved in a crash. 66% of these problems are reported by passenger cars, 17% on SUV’s, and 17% of these are on pickup trucks and vans.
Vehicles whose tires are worn and have little to no tread cannot stop in time and can easily lose traction on the road. This can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cause it to veer out of control.
Poorly Maintained Brakes
Another common cause of automobile accidents are poorly maintained brakes. When pads and rotors are not properly maintained, they can fail and prevent the vehicle from stopping at intersections or to avoid pedestrians or other obstructions in the road.
Failing to maintain a vehicle’s headlights can severely limit the driver’s vision on the road. At night or during inclement weather, this can have fatal consequences as the driver won’t be able to see other vehicles, pedestrians, or obstructions in the roadway. Moreover, broken or malfunctioning taillights can prevent drivers to the rear from seeing the vehicle which can cause the vehicle to be rear ended.