Birmingham Auto Defect Lawyer
A driver can do everything right on the road and still end up in an accident when the vehicle itself turns out to have a defect. What driver would suspect, for example, that a new car would suddenly shut off, depriving the driver of the power steering while driving at high speed? Or that the vehicle would suddenly accelerate for no apparent reason while being driven on a highway? And who would expect to suddenly be broadsided by one of these malfunctioning vehicles?
We are all at the mercy of vehicle manufacturers. If you were recently injured in a car accident, an auto defect may be to blame. A Birmingham auto defect attorney at Drake Injury Lawyers can help you seek justice and financial compensation. Our auto defect lawyers in Birmingham, Alabama have over 20 years of experience. We are capable of going up against automakers, product manufacturers and other powerful defendants in pursuit of the results that you deserve. Contact us today for a free case consultation.
Why Choose Us?
- Personal injury law is all that we do. This gives us in-depth knowledge, skill and experience in this practice area.
- In a peer-review process known as Martindale-Hubbell, we scored the highest rating: AV. This means that we have proven we are outstanding in our field.
- We care about our clients and always put them first. You will benefit from an open line of communication with your lawyer, a commitment to integrity and personalized legal services.
Common Types of Auto Defects
An auto design or part defect can compromise the roadworthiness and overall safety of a motor vehicle, increasing the risk of car accidents and serious injuries. There are many different kinds of defects that may, by their nature, result in or exacerbate injuries to motorists:
- Defects that cause an initial accident, such as a design that encourages rollovers, and the acceleration and turn-off problems described above.
- Defects that deprive occupants of the protection of safety devices, which are often among the selling points used by manufacturers to induce people to purchase the vehicle, such as seatbelts and airbags.
- Defects that increase the damage once an accident occurs. For example, fuel systems that encourage post-accident fires.
Some of the most common auto defects involve the tires, steering components, engine, structure, seatbacks, seatbelts and airbags. See more details on the most common auto defects in history below.
While airbags have been shown to decrease injuries overall, not all airbag systems do that job equally well. If the unit’s sensor is defective or set to deploy at the wrong pressure, the airbag may deploy when there’s no need for it, frequently causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Alternatively, it may not deploy when there is a need for it, leaving the occupant to experience the injuries the device was intended to prevent.
Airbags are designed to inflate with some force, but if too much force is used, the bag inflation itself can injure the occupant. If the airbag is aimed incorrectly, it may injure the occupant. The same when the airbag is not tethered in place properly and strikes the occupant in a way not intended. Defective airbag injuries to the face are common and include potentially serious damage to the occupant’s eyes and eye sockets. Other injuries known to be caused by airbags include:
- Abrasions and contusions
- Internal organ damage in the neck/throat/chest
- Irritation of the throat, skin or other tissue
If the airbag fails to deploy, the occupants become susceptible to the very injuries that airbags are meant to prevent. In addition, a deploying airbag may cause injuries, especially to occupants who are shorter than average (because the bag will hit them higher up than was intended) or who were in odd positions at the time the bag deployed.
Because they have been shown to save lives and prevent or minimize injuries, use of seatbelts is now mandatory in more and more states. Properly functioning seatbelts should do the following:
- Prevent the wearer’s momentum from causing the wearer to smash into the windshield or dashboard (the so-called “second collision” in an accident)
- Prevent the wearer from being ejected during violent crashes like rollovers
However, proper seatbelt function depends on overall design and the performance of each part: the belts themselves, the tightening mechanism, the latching mechanism, the release mechanism, and the anchoring or mounting structures that keep the belt system tethered to the vehicle’s interior.
Typical defects include:
- Failure to lock properly
- Unintended release
- Inadequate anchors that allow the entire mechanism to pull free of the vehicle
- Belts too loose or too weak
- Belt location that allows restraint to cause injuries
As with airbags, if the seatbelt defect keeps the belt from restraining the wearer’s forward momentum during a crash, the wearer becomes susceptible to the very injuries that seatbelts are intended to prevent. But even when seatbelts restrain as intended, the design and location of the restraint can itself cause injuries to the wearer.
Seatbelts, by design, tend to cross the body from shoulder to waist and around the stomach region. The forward momentum of the wearer during an accident presses the belt forcefully into those areas, potentially causing injuries. Many of the injuries are to the internal organs. The neck is also vulnerable if the belt presses directly into it.
In rollover accidents, the forces imposed on the vehicle occupants are not linear as in head-on and rear-end collisions; because the vehicle is rotating, occupants are thrown around the interior in many different directions until the vehicle comes to rest. Unless the occupants are securely restrained, they are likely to collide with multiple internal structures, or even be ejected from the vehicle.
Vehicle defects that can cause rollovers fall into one of two categories:
- Direct causes, like defective designs that produce dangerously high centers of gravity.
- Indirect causes, like defective steering that makes the vehicle more prone to skids and slides, which then make the vehicle more likely to strike an object which “trips” the vehicle over.
Pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are particularly susceptible to rollovers because of their design: They are tall vehicles with relatively narrow wheelbases (distance between the wheels on opposite sides of the vehicle). That gives them a high center of gravity. In addition, both types of vehicles tend to be used on uneven dirt roads and rural roads where rollovers are most likely to occur.
Rollovers are also more likely than other kinds of vehicle accidents to cause deaths and catastrophic injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2004, rollover accidents caused:
- 10,553 deaths
- 47,284 incapacitating injuries
- 184,408 less severe injuries
The same report showed that rollover accidents are more likely to result in death than other types of motor vehicle accidents. Some 2.7 percent of people in a rollover accident died, compared to only 0.2 percent of people in other kinds of accidents.
PRODUCTS LIABILITY THEORY HELPS CONSUMERS
In essence, a vehicle is always potentially dangerous, even when the vehicle is being used as it was intended; it is almost impossible for the ordinary person to discover the defect until there has been an accident. That situation is what gave rise to the legal theory of “products liability.”
In the simplest terms, the law recognizes that consumers are entitled to expect that a product will safely perform its intended functions. If it does not, it is defective and all sellers of it—the manufacturer, retailer, and any steps in between—are legally liable for the damages the defect caused. In many cases, this strict liability approach makes it easier for injured consumers to recover for their injuries.
In the context of motor vehicle defects, strict liability claims can be brought against the vehicle manufacturer, the defective part manufacturer if that’s a different entity, the dealership, and any entity that passed the vehicle down the path from the manufacturer and to the retailer. Our Birmingham product liability lawyers have years of experience handling various types of these claims.
Legal Grounds for an Auto Defect Lawsuit
There are three main grounds for an auto defect lawsuit: strict product liability, negligence and breach of warranty. Strict product liability means the defendant will be found liable – or financially responsible – without regard to negligence. To have grounds for a strict product liability lawsuit for an auto defect, you or your lawyer must have evidence that the auto part in question contained one of three main types of defects:
- The first type is a manufacturing defect, or an issue while the product was being made.
- The second is a design flaw, or a safety issue with the design of the part.
- The third is a marketing defect, or a shortcoming in how the item was labeled or advertised.
In addition to proving one of these three types of defects, you must also prove that the auto part is what caused your car accident or injury. In other words, that your injuries would not have happened – or would have been less serious – were it not for the dangerous or defective product.
If you cannot file a claim based on strict product liability, you may be able to use negligence instead. This means that the manufacturing company committed a careless or wrongful act that created the hazard. An automaker might have been negligent, for example, by failing to properly safety-test a new vehicle before its release.
The third ground for a claim is a breach of warranty. This refers to the failure to fulfill a promise to consumers, such as a safety guarantee. Determining whether or not you have grounds to file an auto defect lawsuit may take assistance from a product liability lawyer at Drake Injury Lawyers.
Statute of Limitations
All personal injury and product liability lawsuits come with a deadline, or a statute of limitations. The statutes of limitations on auto defect lawsuits change from state to state. In Alabama, the deadline is two years from the date of the accident, injury, property damage or death for which you are filing. You may have a shorter or longer deadline in certain circumstances, however, so contact an attorney as soon as possible.
GET EXPERIENCED HELP FROM AN AUTO DEFECT ATTORNEY
There’s nothing simple about a motor vehicle defect case. Product liability claims against car manufacturers require vast amounts of time, money, energy and travel. Establishing that there was a defect often requires detailed engineering analysis, reconstruction of the accident, and consultation with professionals in the engineering and manufacturing fields. Combine that with the fact that most potential defendants are large businesses with lots of incentive to avoid liability, and it’s obvious that experience matters when it comes to choosing a lawyer to handle your case.
At Drake Injury Lawyers in Birmingham, we have been handling injury cases for a quarter of a century. Our track record of success speaks for itself: many million-dollar verdicts and a success rate approaching 99 percent. We know how to handle all the aspects of a defect claim and give every client personal attention.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
An auto defect can lead to frightening problems with your vehicle that can cause or contribute to a car accident. If you have been injured due to an auto defect, contact our Birmingham personal injury attorneys for a free consultation of your case. You can make the recovery process easier for you and your family by hiring an auto defect attorney from Drake Injury Lawyers to represent you during a claim. We are strong legal advocates who have been trusted with part defect and product liability lawsuits for many years. Call (205) 970-0800 or send us a message to request your consultation today.