Because so many product liability injuries and claims are auto-related, it’s essential for lawyers to recognize when a motor vehicle accident may involve a defective product. Determining whether a product defect exists requires time, thorough investigation, and some know-how. A lawyer who fails to recognize the indicators of a potential product defect may significantly undervalue their client’s claim or miss out altogether on a substantial recovery for the client.
Chris Glover and Alyssa Baskam, lawyers in our Atlanta office who handles product liability cases, describe here some common indicators of a product liability claim and how to spot potential product defects in motor vehicle cases.
If you identify any of the following indicators in a case, Beasley Allen’s product liability attorneys will be happy to speak with you and evaluate whether your case has merit for a product defect claim.
Evidence in the Vehicle at the Scene:
Indicators of a potential seatbelt failure:
- The occupant was believed to be belted but is found unbelted post-incident.
- The occupant was belted but nevertheless contacted the vehicle interior, resulting in injury.
- The seat belt was latched post-incident, but the occupant was ejected or otherwise outside the belt.
- The seat belt is “spooled” out or loose after the incident.
- The belted occupant was seriously injured, but the passenger compartment is intact.
Indicators of a potential airbag failure:
- The airbag deployed in a slow impact (under 10 mph).
- The frontal airbag failed to deploy with obvious damage to the front bumper or airbag sensor areas.
- The side torso or head airbag failed to deploy with obvious damage to the side of the vehicle.
- The side head airbag failed to deploy in a rollover crash.
- The airbag appears to have deployed with excessive force or exploded.
- A person was ejected despite the vehicle being equipped with a side curtain airbag.
- The vehicle was equipped with a seat bottom or seat cushion airbag and received spinal cord injuries.
Indicators of a potential tire failure:
- The tread separated from the tire despite lack of “wear and tear” to the tire.
Indicators of a potential fuel tank [design/location] failure:
- A fire starts as a result of the collision (particularly a low-impact collision).
Indicators of a potential seat failure:
- If the seatback falls backward, particularly if it falls back to a completely prone position during an incident.
- If, despite being belted, the occupant is ejected or otherwise outside their seat following the collision.
- If a rear-seat occupant is injured from impact with the front seat.
Indicators of a potential roof crush [failure to maintain integrity] failure:
- If the roof was crushed five or more inches.
- If the roof was crushed sideways, creating an opening over the occupant’s head.
Indicators of a potential rollover failure:
- If the vehicle rolled over on the highway.
- If the road was paved, smooth, and dry.
- If the tire marks on the road end abruptly.
- If there is no “tripping mechanism” like a pothole or a curb.
Indicators of a potential door latch failure:
- If the vehicle’s door(s) do not stay closed during an incident.
Indicators of autonomous vehicle or Crash Avoidance Technology failure:
- Post 2014 vehicle equipped with frontal vehicle crash avoidance or brake assist but does not stop prior to frontal impact.
- Post 2014 vehicle equipped with Lane Keeping Technology or Lane Departure Warning and the vehicle leaves roadway.
- Post 2014 vehicle equipped with Blind Spot Detection and merges into another vehicle.
- The following injuries could indicate a potential vehicle defect:
- Severe injury to the occupant combined with no airbag deployment.
- Severe injury to the occupant despite minor impact (with or without airbag deployment).
- Severe injury to the occupant inconsistent with the direction or type of impact sustained.
- Puncture wounds or “foreign body” indicated in post-wreck medical records.
- Death, paralysis, lost limb, amputation, traumatic brain injury or severe burns in a crash without major vehicle damage.
Beasley Allen often receives calls from lawyers with cases they believe could be auto product liability claims due to the severity of the damages or other evidence present at the crash scene. Our Personal Injury & Product Liability attorneys respond to those calls promptly.
The defective product indicators we mentioned above are not conclusive, so even if none of these signs or injuries are present in your case, you could still have a defective product case. If your client’s vehicle shows significant damage or your client has suffered significant injuries in a motor vehicle collision, there may be a product defect claim. Whether your vehicle exhibits any of the indicators above or not, we would love to speak with you about the facts of your case and look at photos and other available evidence to help you assess the existence of a product liability claim.