Most claims for injuries in Virginia automobile accidents are brought against an at-fault driver, although the driver’s insurance company makes the payout. However, in some cases, a defectively designed car, truck, bus or motorcycle may have caused an injury or a death. When this happens, a product liability claim can be brought against a carmaker or another party.
At the Smith Law Center, we fight lawsuits against automakers and the manufacturers of defective vehicle parts. In recent years, the automobile industry has been hit by a series of scandals. Unsafe and defective parts on GM, Chrysler, and Toyota cars resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. Millions of vehicles with defective airbags were recalled.
A vehicle may have a part that was faulty and not designed to specification. In some instances, the design of a vehicle is defective. People injured by either may have grounds to sue the manufacturer in a product liability claim.
Types of Defective Automobile Claims in Virginia
Defectively Manufactured Vehicles or Car Parts
Claims may be made against a manufacturer when a car, truck, motorcycle or a part was incorrectly designed. Recently, tens of millions of cars equipped with Takata airbags were recalled because some devices fail and explode during fender benders, sending shrapnel flying into victims, noted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A part may be improperly manufactured due to an error at the facility where the car or part of it was made, or a problem that occurs during shipping or at the dealership or supply company.
Vehicles of an Inherently Dangerous Design
On occasions, a vehicle may be of an unreasonably dangerous design even though it was manufactured as intended. An example is a make of SUV that flips over easily on a curve.
These cases involve vehicles or parts that have been on the market for some time before the danger is discovered. The design of a vehicle may exacerbate the seriousness of injuries sustained.
Examples of Cars that Caused Defective Automobile Injuries
GM Faulty Ignition Switches
A faulty ignition switch on certain smaller General Motors models of cars was linked to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries. The ignition switches failed causing cars to stall on the highway.
Fires from Chrysler Gas Tanks
Chrysler recalled 1.5 million Jeeps following concerns exposed plastic gas tanks could rupture and catch fire. The defect was linked to at least 50 deaths but safety advocates believe the death toll was higher.
Toyota Sudden Acceleration Issue
From 2009 to 2011, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles. Sticking acceleration pedals were linked to unintended acceleration. The defect caused about 90 deaths and many more injuries.
Takata Airbag Scandal
Faulty air bags made by the Japanese manufacturer Takata resulted in the largest recall in the history of the auto industry. Takata airbags are found in numerous makes of cars.
NHTSA determined the root cause of the problem to be airbags that use an ammonium nitrate-based propellant without a chemical drying agent. In humid areas with high temperatures, airbags were unexpectedly deflating and, in some cases, sending shrapnel into drivers or passengers.
The inflator recall impacted more than 37 million vehicles in the U.S., involving 49.5 million inflators. At least 20 deaths and numerous injuries are linked to the airbags.
Firestone Tires on Ford Explorers
Defective tires that separated causing crashes were linked to the deaths of at least 270 people in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires, mostly original equipment on the Ford Explorer, the world's top-selling sports utility vehicle (SUV).
Who Can Be Held Liable for Defective Automobile Injuries in Virginia?
All parties in the so-called “chain of distribution” of the automobile or vehicle part from the manufacturer to the consumer can be sued for injuries or deaths caused by a defective product. They may include the:
Automobile Manufacturer. Cases are often brought against the big carmakers. In some cases such as the GM ignition switch issue, a carmaker may offer a certain sum to victims. The carmaker offered $594.5 million to the 399 cases that were eligible for compensation, including 124 deaths. It averaged out at about $1.5 million per claim.
Parts manufacturer. When a case involves a defective part, such as an airbag, a tire or a battery, the manufacturer of that part should be included in the action. Both the vehicle and the parts manufacturer should be sued together unless the defective part was bought separately. If a replacement tire fails, for example, the car manufacturer is not part of the distribution chain.
Car dealership or auto supply shop. The company that sold you a defective vehicle or a part may be liable for damages.
A shipping company. Any company, including a shipper or any other middleman in the chain of distribution, may be held liable for its role in the chain of distribution.
Contact an Attorney to Help You With a Defective Automobile Claim
The Hampton, Virginia-based Smith Law Center has helped clients recover more than a billion dollars in settlements and verdicts. Defective automobile claims can be very complicated and involve multiple parties. We have a long track record in these cases. Call us at 757.244.7000.
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