Although modern automobiles are safer than they’ve ever been, massive manufacturer recalls are not at all uncommon. In April of 2013, four major Japanese automakers, including Nissan and Toyota, recalled 3.4 million passenger vehicles because they had defective airbags that caught fire once engaged. Fortunately, no deaths or even injuries have been attributed to these faulty airbags. But as carmakers have learned in recent years, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
An automotive defect that results in death or permanent injuries can produce huge class action lawsuit that can cost a company hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars. The world’s largest automaker, Toyota, only recently announced that it had resolved a slew of lawsuit alleging “unintended acceleration” for $1.1 billion!
Huge recalls not only hurt the bottom line, they also attract unwanted attention and bad publicity, which can actually be more costly to an automaker in the long run. Though they have retained their title as the biggest automaker on Earth, Toyota has suffered public relations disaster after disaster in recent years, in spite of the fact that the defects they were responsible for did not result in much loss of life. You can only imagine then how much smaller automakers that had more serious, potentially fatal defects would fare in the courts. Of course, that does not mean that these cases are always a slam dunk.
Automotive defect cases are extremely complex and enormously expensive. A vehicle defect lawyer must demonstrate that a specific manufacturing error resulted in injury and/or loss to his plaintiff. To do so, he/she must order a series of automotive tests that rule out any other reasonable cause, including driver error, weather, and maintenance. For example, if you skid into a tree and are injured in an accident because your tires were bald or worn out, that is not the manufacturer’s fault. Only collisions that are the direct result of a specific defect that was present when the car or truck left the factory floor can be claimed.
By federal law, all cars and trucks that are sold in America must meet basic safety standards. Carmakers are also required to take necessary and reasonable precautions in the development and design of their vehicles. In most cases that are attributed to a vehicle defect, the driver and his passengers had no prior knowledge that anything was wrong with the car or truck. It is only after they consult a specialist, typically an automotive engineer, that they learn a defect was to blame for their accident and injuries.
In most cases, the defective part is actually a safety device, such as an airbag, seatbelt, or bumper. Faulty tires are also quite common and can result in rollovers, slippage, and hydroplaning. Because these cases are quite complex, only a small fraction of personal injury attorney have the experience needed even to investigate them, let alone bring them to court.
In addition to being a skilled litigator, a good vehicle defect lawyer often has a background in science, or at least knows how to work with forensic experts. After all, these cases are based almost entirely on scientific evidence. The forensic scientist and the automotive engineer often work together to recreate the scene of the accident, which can help establish legal liability. What does the vehicle defect lawyer do?
He/she doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes, but the attorney must know how to examine forensic reports and how to interview experts. These are skills that few fraud attorneys and personal injury lawyers possess, since they take years to hone.