Our years of experience in investigating automotive, maritime and aviation accidents have shown us that often times product liability claims are “hidden” causes for injuries. It is critical that your attorney considers the possibilities so that no claim gets overlooked. If there are injuries that are disproportionate to the severity of the accident, a product liability claim should be considered.
While the automotive umbrella technically covers any vehicle with a motor, it is usually used to describe cars, trucks and buses. These types of accidents can involve side, rear and frontal impacts, in addition to rollovers. They can be caused by various factors, including sudden unintended acceleration of the vehicle that causes it to speed out of control, and worsened due to issues such as defective guardrails.
Defective product claims related to car accidents can involve:
- Airbags – An airbag defect could play a contributing factor to accident injuries if it fails to deploy although the vehicle has obvious damage; deploys with excessive force or deploys late or deploys in a collision which was slower than 10 miles an hour.
- Roof crush – Roof crush occurs when a roof is defectively designed, leaving it too weak to protect against severe injury in the case of an accident involving rollover. This can occur in passenger car, large truck and even ATV and golf cart accidents. In fact, structural weaknesses in most American-made truck cabs make the chance of being crushed in a rollover accident almost a certainty.
- Seat belts – Seat belts may not latch correctly or not be attached to the vehicle correctly, increasing risk of ejection during an accident.
- Seat backs – Seat back failure can interfere with the restraint system, allowing vehicle occupants to impact rear seat objects in a rear-impact collision because they are not properly restrained. In some circumstances the vehicle occupants can be completely ejected from the vehicle when they have slid out from under the safety restraints.
- Door latches – Door latch systems are a primary safety feature to ensure that occupants remain in the vehicle during an accident and malfunctions can increase the risk of ejection from the vehicle and related catastrophic injury.
- Tires – Aging tires or tires that were improperly designed or manufactured can cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle. Due to the stress concentrations and subsequent high internal temperatures at the edge of the belt, this area is particularly sensitive to manufacturing, design and material problems. Recreational vehicles are often involved in accidents caused by catastrophic tread separation due to the heavy loads of large RVs. Attorneys investigating these cases have found many instances where a tire manufacturer approved and sold a particular type of tire for use on an RV, when in fact the tire was not suitable for that type of vehicle.
- Fuel System—Design and manufacturing defects relating to the fuel system, including fuel filler cap design, fuel line design, fuel tank design and fuel pump design, can allow fuel to spill during an accident causing post-collision fuel fed fires that increase the risk of serious injuries.
- Awnings–The public should be aware of the dangers involving awnings attached to the side of recreational vehicles (RVs) and horse trailers. Awnings that have been rolled up and fastened to the side of the vehicle may become dislodged when the locks holding them to the vehicle fail, causing the awning to hang out towards oncoming traffic and posing a risk of serious injury or death to those drivers.
Truck accidents can also be caused or worsened by defective products. For example, cab guards are shiny, metal pieces positioned behind the cab of almost every log truck in the United States, and they were purchased with the belief they will protect from cargo shifting forward and crushing a driver’s cab during a crash. Our litigation has shown that they are defective and do not actually prevent injury.
Many heavy trucks / trailers themselves are defectively designed in that the vehicles do not have proper under ride protection devices. We represent numerous clients who have lost relatives as a result of this under ride defect. When a vehicle is allowed to under ride a heavy truck trailer, it results in severe injuries to vehicle occupants because passenger cars are substantially lower than the bed of heavy truck trailers.
In addition, many times when we deal with motorcycle accidents resulting in injury or death, there are defective parts to blame. For motorcycles, problems have been known to arise from these areas:
- Rear Brakes Malfunction
- Brake Lights Malfunction
- Leak in Fuel Pump
- Engine Stall
Defective maritime products can be found on watercraft ranging from yachts to jet skis, and may result in fire, explosion, loss of operator control, grounding, sinking or striking other watercraft, objects or individuals. Affected products may include engines, propellers or propulsion systems, electronic systems, warning or safety equipment, gauges and other parts.
Thousands of people suffer serious injuries or are killed by defective maritime products every year. Most of these injuries could be avoided if the distributor or manufacturer of these products took additional steps to ensure the safety of its consumers.
By some estimates, mechanical failures cause up to 22 percent of aviation crashes. Historically, aircraft manufacturing defects, flawed aircraft design, inadequate warning systems, and inadequate instructions for safe use of the aircraft’s equipment or systems have contributed to numerous aviation crashes. In such cases, the pilot may follow every procedure correctly but still be unable to avert disaster.
Since 1988, Beasley Allen has had its own in-house Accident Investigation division. Having dedicated, experienced accident investigators in-house has been critical in evaluating potential transportation accident claims. Our investigators offer expert analysis and advice while assisting in the preparations for trial.