A recent fatality crash in Florida has been in the spotlight since the battery in the Tesla Model S car reignited not once, but twice, after firemen extinguished the blaze that consumed the vehicle as soon as the crash occurred.
A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board says that the lithium-ion battery ignited after the car crashed after losing control because the car was traveling at 116 mph around a curve where the posted speed limit was 30 mph. The report says that the autopilot function had prompted the driver to use the steering wheel 15 minutes before the crash, but not in the immediate moments before the crash occurred.
The agency initially investigated the battery fire because this is not the first electric vehicle to have the battery reignite. Tesla has not commented on the accident but has reported that high-speed collisions can result in fires regardless of the type of car involved.
Product Liability and Defective Car Parts
Everyday we rely on manufacturers and retailers to produce and sell products that are designed and made in a manner that will not cause us injury. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Sometimes manufacturers fail to design or produce products that are safe, including automobiles and their parts. Some examples of motor vehicle defects that have been the target of lawsuits in the past several years include:
- SUVs prone to rollovers
- Tires prone to blowouts
- Motorcycles that wobble at high speeds
- ATVs that are prone to rollover accidents
If you or your loved one has been injured or suffered other damages that resulted from a manufacturing or design defect of a motor vehicle, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your damages. Proving the defects can be time consuming and complex, and typically requires expert testimony. That is why it is important to have an experienced product liability attorney on your side.
Motor Vehicle Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims that involve motor vehicles and automobile parts typically come in one of two forms – dangerously designed vehicles or defectively manufactured vehicles and vehicle parts. When a product is defectively designed, this means that although the manufacturer may have created the product correctly, the design itself was dangerous and resulted in damages or injuries. Defectively manufactured vehicles and parts, on the other hand, means that the design was safe, but a defect in the manufacturing process resulted in a dangerous vehicle or part. Examples of product liability claims relating to automobiles may include the following:
- Defective Tires: Tire failures and blowouts are frequently the cause of accidents. In recent years, some of the largest tire companies have been accused of design flaws and poor production practices that have resulted in poor tire performance.
- Fuel System Defects: Fuel tanks can be positioned incorrectly, placing them at risk if an impact should occur. Fuel tanks are often prone to welding defects in safety devices that prevent the flow of gas in the event of an automobile crash. Damages and injuries due to fuel system defects are some of the most preventable.
- Air Bag and Seat Belt Defects: Airbags and seatbelts are meant to reduce automobile fatalities, but when these safety devices are defective, they can cause even more severe injuries than those they are meant to prevent. If a seatbelt tears or detaches during impact or airbags fail to deploy, the consequences can be fatal.
- SUV and Car Roof Collapse: The biggest threat to passengers in an SUV or car roll over accident is a roof collapse. While some damage in a roll over is typically unavoidable, catastrophic damages and injuries may occur if the roof system is weak and results in a roof that disintegrates during an accident.
Potential Defendants in Your Case
Identifying the defendants in your case can be complex, but an experienced product liability attorney can determine which defendants may be responsible for your damages and injuries. Your attorney will examine the chain of distribution, or the path the vehicle takes from the manufacturer to you. Any of the following may be possible defendants in a vehicle product liability lawsuit:
- Manufacturer: The manufacturer is typically the largest company in the chain of distribution. This means that they are likely to have the most money to compensate you for your injuries, but that also means you will likely have a team of attorneys to help defend the case.
- Parts Manufacturer: If your lawsuit involves a defective car part, such as the battery or tires, the manufacturer for the part may be separate from the manufacturer of the automobile. In this case, you may be able to seek compensation from both the vehicle manufacturer and parts manufacturer.
- Car Dealership: The dealership that sold the car to you, or the defective car part, may be liable for the damages.
- Shipper or Middleman: Any company that was part of the chain of distribution from the manufacturer to the dealership or retailer could be liable for your damages, this includes any company that shipped or handled your vehicle getting it from one location to the next.
- Used Car Dealership: Even if the vehicle that caused your injuries was bought used, the dealership that sold you the car could be liable in some situations.
Traffic Accident or Product Liability Claim?
If you have been involved in an accident with another vehicle and your vehicle or the other automobile involved in the accident was defective or had a defective part, you could have both a product liability claim and a negligent driving claim against the other driver.
The laws involving defective products and negligent driving claims are somewhat different, and fortunately, you do not have to choose. As long as there is legal basis for both, you can include both types of claims in your complaint.
Possible Compensation in a Defective Vehicle or Vehicle Part
If you have been injured due to a defective vehicle or vehicle part, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. You may be eligible to claim the following:
- Medical expenses such as therapy, doctor and hospital bills, and pharmacy costs including future expenses for these items.
- Lost wages and reduction in earning capacity if you missed work due to your injury.
- Disability expenses that you may incur if you have to hire an attorney to help you obtain permanent disability or remodel your home to accommodate a disability.
- Property damages.
- Emotional distress as well as physical pain and suffering.
- Quality of life and loss of companionship.
Consult with an Experienced Product Liability Attorney
It is important to understand that if you have been injured due to a defective vehicle or defective vehicle part, time is of the essence. Florida law requires that you file the lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident in most cases. Failure to file the lawsuit in that time frame may result in the loss of your right to sue for compensation. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have experience handling product liability lawsuits and can advise you of the best course of action for your case. Contact them today to schedule a consultation at one of our convenient Florida locations.