Last month, vehicles built by 14 different manufacturers were recalled due to defective frontal airbags. The airbags were provided by the major parts supplier Takata and were mostly used in cars from model years 2002 through 2015. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the problems with the airbags can be traced to the use of an ammonium nitrate-based propellant, which when combined with environmental moisture, high temperatures, and a defect in the airbag’s inflator, can lead to an explosion, which in turn can cause metal shards from the inflator’s metal cartridge to spray throughout the passenger cabin. At least 10 victims have lost their lives as a result of the defect and over 100 more were seriously injured in the U.S. alone. The recall stands at more than 100 million cars worldwide, all of which must have their airbags replaced before the year 2019.
Common Automobile Defects
Between January 2014 and May 2015, over 100 million cars were recalled for dangerous defects in the U.S. Some of the most common defects included:
- Improperly manufactured or designed tires and wheels;
- Substandard braking systems;
- Airbags that deployed improperly;
- Malfunctioning ignition switches;
- Failed seat belts;
- Unreliable steering components that cause partial or complete loss of vehicle control;
- Problems with fuel system components including leakages and vulnerability to crash damage;
- Malfunctioning accelerator controls;
- Failed windshield wipers;
- Problems with wiring;
- Malfunctioning accelerator controls;
- Problems with engine cooling fan blades;
- Defective child safety seats; and
- Breakage of other critical vehicle components.
There are a variety of electrical and mechanical failures that can contribute to vehicle defects. Some of the most common included:
- Poor design;
- Incorrect assembly;
- Use of inferior materials;
- Insufficient testing;
- Improper repairs; and
- Improper maintenance.
Initial Steps After An Accident
Victims injured as a result of one of these types of defects should first ensure that all parties involved receive any necessary medical care. When all emergency health issues have been addressed, the car’s occupants should take extensive photographs of the damage. It is also important to maintain all records regarding the purchase of the vehicle as well as receipts for any repairs. These documents will be important in proving that the car was damaged when it was purchased. These types of defects can cause serious injuries, including:
- Facial injuries;
- Head trauma;
- Skin abrasions, puncture wounds, and lacerations;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Loss of vision and eye damage;
- Hand, finger, and forearm fractures;
- Hearing damage; and
Many of these injuries, specifically paralysis, can be permanent, which means that victims will be required to pay for both past and future medical expenses. These costs can be extremely high, so it is important for victims to retain extensive records and documentation of all treatments. This will help ensure that victims receive full compensation.
When an automobile manufacturer issues a recall, the company must contact all of the owners of defective cars and inform them of the problem. Many manufacturers voluntarily initiate recalls once the defect is discovered, while others are ordered to do so by the NHTSA. Manufacturers are also required to notify NHTSA, car dealers, and distributors of the possible defect before fixing the problem free of charge.
Once a recall occurs, parties injured as a result of the defect can either file an individual claim in state or federal court or participate in a class-action lawsuit under one of the following legal theories:
- Strict liability;
- Breach of warranty; or
In cases involving multiple parties, separate lawsuits filed in federal court will be consolidated into a multi district litigation (MDL) proceeding. However, even if a case becomes part of a MDL, it still retains its status as distinct and separate from the other lawsuits, and is only brought into the same federal court for pretrial proceedings. Some manufacturers also set up a compensation fund in an effort to handle claims without the expense of trial. However, it is still important to speak to an attorney before authorizing any release from liability.
Vehicle manufacturers are not the only parties that can be held liable for a defective vehicle. For instance, designers and suppliers as well as manufacturers of independent car parts can also be held responsible for injuries sustained as a result of the car’s defect. These parties can still be held liable even if they didn’t exhibit any negligence under South Carolina’s legal theory of strict liability.
Many injuries sustained in car crashes cause permanent disabilities, scarring, or disfigurement. This can be emotionally traumatic for many victims, some of whom require therapy or medication for the rest of their lives. Treating injuries can also be financially devastating for victims and their families. Medical costs could include everything from emergency medical transport to surgeries to long-term physical therapy. Fortunately, in South Carolina victims are able to obtain compensation for these costs. Victims may also be able to recover further costs related to the incident, including:
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income; and
- Pain and suffering.
People who purchase used vehicles may not be aware that the car was recalled. To help car owners, the NHTSA created an online system that enables users to enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into an online database. If the individual’s model of car was recalled within the previous 15 years, the website will have a record.
Contact an Experienced Automobile Defect Attorney Today
Being injured in an accident caused by a defective vehicle can be devastating for victims. Tragically, some victims even lose their lives or are permanently injured as a result of automobile defects, so obtaining legal representation in these cases is extremely important. If you live in the Beaufort, Charleston, Clinton, Columbia, Conway, Florence, Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, Orangeburg, Summerville, or Walterboro, areas or in the Horry, Laurens, Lexington, or Richland Counties, please contact the Joye Law Firm by calling 877-941-1019 or complete one of our standard contact forms and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free initial consultation.