If a defective vehicle or vehicle part is the reason why a traffic accident happens – and you’re injured – what is your recourse?

In most traffic collisions, one or both drivers will be at-fault. Negligent driving is the reason for most accidents, and negligent at-fault drivers are liable for any injuries they cause to others.

But sometimes, accidents can happen when both drivers are doing everything right. If neither driver is at-fault, the cause of an accident is usually a defective vehicle or vehicle part.

HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY HELP?

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in New York, and you know or believe that a vehicle or part defect was the reason for the crash, you may be able to file a personal injury claim.

Discuss the case as soon as you can with an experienced Bronx personal injury lawyer.

You’ll learn where you stand legally. If you qualify and choose to take legal action, your attorney will act on your behalf.

HOW EXTENSIVE IS THE PROBLEM OF DEFECTIVE VEHICLES AND PARTS?

As you may know, the number of motor vehicles recalled for defective parts has skyrocketed in recent years.

In the last decade, over twelve million vehicles manufactured by eleven different automakers – all with defective airbags made by Japan’s Takata Corporation – have been recalled worldwide.

In the U.S., General Motors recalled over 26 million vehicles with defective ignition switches.

In New York, injured traffic accident victims may recover damages if an accident and injuries were caused by a defect in one of the vehicles involved in the crash or by a vehicle part.

WHAT IS STRICT LIABILITY?

Those who manufacture, distribute, and sell vehicles and vehicle parts have a legal duty to ensure that their products are reliable and will not injure a consumer who uses them as intended.

Product liability cases that involve defective vehicles and vehicle parts are governed by the legal doctrine known as “strict liability.”

What strict liability means is that a vehicle or part manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may be automatically liable if someone is injured because a vehicle or a vehicle part is defective.

In other words, no particular instance of carelessness or negligence has to be proven in a product liability case. That’s good news for injury victims.

WHAT MUST PLAINTIFFS PROVE IN PRODUCT LIABILITY CASES?

An injured accident victim – the “plaintiff” – can pursue a strict liability claim based on a defective vehicle or part if he or she can prove all three of these facts regarding the claim:

1. The vehicle or one of its parts had an “unreasonably dangerous” defect.

2. The defect caused an injury while the vehicle was being used as intended.

3. The vehicle had not “substantially” changed from its original condition in any way that affected its performance.

HOW DO DEFENDANTS FIGHT PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS?

If you file a personal injury claim, you can expect the vehicle or part manufacturer, distributor, or retailer that you’re suing – the “defendant” in your case – to dispute your claim.

A defendant may suggest that you owned the vehicle for so long that it had substantially changed from its original condition and no longer performed reliably.

Or a defendant may charge that you were aware of the defect, but instead of seeking repairs, you continued to drive the vehicle anyway.

You’ll need to be represented by an attorney with considerable experience – an advocate who knows what it takes to win against the automakers and parts manufacturers.

WHAT TYPES OF VEHICLE DEFECTS LEAD TO LIABILITY CLAIMS?

Three different types of vehicle and vehicle parts defects could lead to injuries and a subsequent product liability claim:

1. Design defects: If a product has been defectively designed, it’s unsafe from the beginning, and the defect is part of every unit that’s manufactured and sold.

2. Manufacturing defects: A manufacturing defect is the result of a flaw or mistake in the manufacturing process.

3. Marketing defects: A marketing defect is typically an advertising or marketing mistake: inadequate safety warnings, insufficient instructions, or other incorrect information.

WHEN A TRAFFIC COLLISION HAPPENS, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Product liability claims arising from traffic accidents can be quite complicated, and when a collision happens, a lawyer will not be there to help you. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

At the scene of any traffic accident, if anyone is injured, summon medical help first. Then call the police. You’ll need a copy of their accident report as soon as it becomes available.

Until you can speak with an attorney, you will need to compile evidence yourself. Take (or ask someone else to take) plenty of photographs of the vehicles and the accident scene.

If there are witnesses, try to get their names and a way to contact them. Later, you may or may not need eyewitness statements or testimony.

Even if you don’t think you’ve been hurt in a collision, have a medical exam within 24 hours. A latent or hard-to-detect injury can emerge – days or even weeks later – as a serious condition.

IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

If you’ve been injured, after you’ve been examined by a healthcare professional, take the case directly to an experienced Bronx personal injury lawyer.

An injury lawyer can investigate the crash, determine who has liability, and take the appropriate legal action on your behalf.

If it’s your own vehicle – or part – that was defective, you will also need to compile all of the vehicle’s sales and repair receipts, a copy of the warranty, and any other pertinent documents.

You’ll have a lot to prove, but if you have the evidence – and a good attorney on your side – your claim should prevail.

WHAT ARE VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE ENTITLED TO?

In New York, the victims of negligence are entitled to full compensation for all medical expenses arising from the accident, lost wages and earning capacity, pain, suffering, and sometimes more.

In many states, defendants may be awarded punitive damages that are intended to punish manufacturers and encourage them to fix vehicle and parts defects that have resulted in injury.

Punitive damages are rare in New York cases, but every case is different. The right injury lawyer will fight for every cent of compensation that a victim needs and deserves.

If a traffic accident happens, but neither driver did anything wrong or careless, a more in-depth investigation will be needed.

And if you’ve been injured, you should be compensated. With your health and your future at stake, you must – as quickly as you can – obtain the experienced legal help you need.