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Is The Driver Liable When a Car Malfunction Causes an Accident?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Car problems are an inevitable part of life. However, while a dead battery or a flat tire are frustrating, they aren't dangerous. Yet, car problems had while on the road can be major hazards not just to your own safety, but everyone around you.

If you have been in an accident, that is bad enough. However, if prior to that accident you were dealing with some sort of malfunction, such as a blown-out tire or faulty brakes, you may be looking for a little justice. Yet, even if your car caused the accident and not any negligence on your part, it is likely that the other party and their insurance company will still try to pin the blame on you, but that might not be quite right.

If your car did have a malfunction, there could be another party you could be holding responsible for your damages and those to the other vehicle in some circumstances.

Manufacturer Liability

It is possible for your auto accident to transform into a product liability case if the malfunction was caused by the manufacturer. If you can show that the problem was caused by a flaw in the design of the vehicle or a flaw that happened in the manufacturing process, you can pursue a claim with the manufacturer and hold them liable.

Unfortunately, this will take an examination by someone very knowledgeable about cars and it can be difficult to go after auto companies. Furthermore, if the cause in question has already been recalled, depending on the time the recall has been out, you may be liable for not visiting a dealer to have it rectified after you have been notified about the issue.

Repair Shop Liability

More commonly when a car malfunctions, it is not so much the manufacturer that caused it due to some defect, but it could have been potentially caused by the repair technician. Over time, your mechanic has a lot more contact with the car and its mechanical functions than the manufacturer.

If your vehicle malfunctioned, you may want to have it investigated after the wreck to see if it was a fault in your repair shop that caused the problem. If this proves true, you can hold the repair shop liable.

Unfortunately, many independent mechanics don't have the assets, funds, or even insurance to field a lawsuit like this. However, chain repair shops will often have insurance specifically to cover the mistakes of their employees.

Were You Actually At-Fault?

When a car accident happens due to a malfunction, you may be somewhat relieved to know you might not be held liable, but there are circumstances where this isn't true. For example, if the malfunction was caused due to your own work on the car, this means that you are still held liable for that accident.

Furthermore, if you suspected something was wrong with your car, such as your tires kept losing pressure, or your brakes were a little slower to stop your car, you may be held liable if you didn't take any action. This falls into the same vein as the aforementioned recalled defects on the part of the manufacturer. Similar to if you received a recall notice and did not take timely action to have the defect replaced, if you knew of a problem but did nothing, then the accident it caused is still your fault.

Need Help?

Have you been in an auto accident in the Los Angeles area? Whether it was caused by a defect or the negligence of another, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you navigate through the complex process of personal injury suits to help you get the compensation that you deserve.

NHTSA Fines Takata for Failure to Cooperate with Investigation

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken Japanese auto parts supplier Takata to task for its failure to cooperate with an investigation by the federal agency into the company’s defective airbags.

The administration has announced that it's imposing fines of approximately $14,000 a day on the Japanese company. The $14,000 fine includes fines of $7,000 per day for violating two separate orders from the federal agency. Takata denies that it has failed to cooperate with the agency's investigation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now demanding that executives at the company appear in person to answer interrogations at the agency, instead of submitting written replies in writing, as they have been doing thus far. The agency will also conduct inspections at the US headquarters of the Japanese company as well as its testing facility in Michigan. Takata is also being required to provide the parts that are currently under investigation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for testing.

The defective airbags are linked to at least six fatalities, and several injuries in accidents. However, the Japanese company continues to refuse to announce nationwide recalls of the airbags. The problem lies with a defect that causes the airbags to deploy inadvertently, causing a serious risk of injuries to occupants. The defective airbags are also susceptible to excessive force on deployment, causing injuries, to occupants. Occupants are at risk of having shards of shrapnel shooting into their faces from the deploying airbags.

At least 10 automakers in the United States alone have announced recalls of vehicles that come with the defective airbag.

Airbag manufacturers and other parties may be liable in an injury claim involving defective airbags. If you have suffered injuries because of a malfunctioning airbag, speak to a Burbank personal injury lawyer about filing a claim for compensation.

Obama's Budget Triples Funding for Defect Investigation at NHTSA

Sunday, January 04, 2015

For years now, the federal administration has lacked the resources necessary to investigate auto defects, and act in a timely manner to protect motorists from malfunctioning vehicles. However, in the future, the budget for defect investigation and other related activities at the agency is likely to be much higher. President Obama recently proposed in his budget increased funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s defects division.

The budget proposal is included for the fiscal year 2016, and would increase funding by nearly 3 times for the division that is responsible for investigating motor vehicle defects. That budget has remained consistently flat for close to 10 years. Under the Obama administration's proposal, $31.3 million would be allocated to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defect Investigations. That would be an increase from the $1.1 million allocated to the Office of Defects Investigation during the current fiscal year. That makes a significant increase in the resources that are now available to the division.

If the proposal does go ahead, and the budget is tripled, that would increase the number of employees at the agency from 51 to 108 employees. The division would be able to hire more numbers of engineers, investigators, technicians, and other experts necessary to detect and analyze motor vehicle defects.

The move comes on the heels of a number of auto safety problems that have emerged recently. Millions of cars have been recalled last year alone for serious problems that increase motorist accident risks. Primary among these were the recalls of Takata airbags affecting millions of vehicles. Those defects have been linked to at least five fatalities.

In many of these cases, it has emerged that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was unable to identify these defects in time. The main reason for such failures was shortage of resources. Those problems will, hopefully, soon end with the expanded budget.

If you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by an auto defect, speak to a product liability attorney in Burbank.

More Automakers Expand Takata Airbag Recall

Monday, December 15, 2014

BMW recently announced that it would expand its national recall of vehicles due to defective airbags. Another 140,000 vehicles will be added to the earlier recall.

The recall involves the 2004-2006 3-series Vehicles. Those cars were manufactured between January 2004 and august 2006. According to BMW, this is a precautionary measure, and none of the defective airbags by the Japanese auto parts supplier have yet involved any BMW vehicle.

Airbags manufactured by the Japanese auto parts supplier are at the center of a national recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the United States alone, more than 17 million vehicles linked to the defective airbags have already been recalled. Globally, more than 24 million cars are included in the recall.

The friction between Takata and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration meanwhile continues with the Japanese company rejecting a demand by federal authorities to expand its recall to cover the entire United States. Over the past six years, Takata has been issuing recalls of its airbags in collaboration with at least 10 automakers. Many of the recalls have covered the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. Takata has claimed that the problem, which causes a number of airbag-related problems is only limited to those areas that suffer from high humidity in the United States. However, the agency believes the problem is much more severe.

Problems with airbags have included small shards of metal, exploding into the face of the occupants when the airbag deploys. There is a serious potential for eye injuries, puncture wounds, facial injuries, severe blunt force trauma, and head injury associated with these defective airbags. At least five fatalities are linked to the defective airbags. Burbank personal injury lawyers are also aware of dozens of injuries linked to these airbags.

Quarter of Recalled American Cars Are Not Fixed

Sunday, July 13, 2014

As many as 25% of all recalled automobiles in the United States are not fixed, which means that millions of cars continue to be operated even though they contain potentially dangerous defects.

In many cases, people are not even aware of recalls. Manufacturers make it a point to contact car owners, and mail them recall notices. However, many consumers in Thousand Oaks dispose of this mail, believing it to be junk mail. That means a motorist may not even be aware of any recall involving his vehicle and could be at risk of an accident.

Even when a motorist is aware of a recall, he may not necessarily believe it involves a serious problem. The growing number of recalls in the auto industry is one of the reasons for this. When people are exposed to a seemingly large volume of recall alerts, they are less likely to believe that the recall affecting their vehicle is a serious problem. They, therefore, choose to simply ignore the recall, with possibly dangerous consequences.

According to Carfax, the numbers are really serious. There are as many as 36 million cars currently traveling on American roads that have been recalled, but not yet fixed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average completion rate for recalls in the United States is approximately 75%. But in the case of older cars, the numbers are much lower. Owners of older automobiles may be much less likely to become aware of a recall, or to take the car in when there has been a recall.

Automobile manufacturers have begun to understand the scope of the problem here. They are working on their own to boost recall response. For instance, Chrysler Group recently began using a system that involves e-mail and phone calls to remind customers to increase recall response rates. As a result of those strategies, the company’s recall response rates shot up to 80%. Other automakers are also experimenting with similar strategies.



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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.