Do I need a personal injury attorney if a vehicle defect caused my car accident?
Driver error isn't the only cause of serious or fatal car accidents. Sometimes, defective car parts come loose, break, or fail to perform.
Since 1966, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled nearly 400 million cars due to dangerous manufacturing defects. In addition, the agency has recalled nearly 50 million tires, nearly 70 million car parts, and more than 40 million car seats.
Once a defect has been discovered, car manufacturers must notify the NHTSA (who, then, initiates a recall).
What types of vehicle defects are there?
Title 49, Chapter 301 of federal code says that all cars must be manufactured, designed, and built to perform in a way that protects the public from the risk of a car accident. Some common examples of safety-related car defects provided by the NHTSA include:
- Broken steering components that result in partial or total loss of vehicle control
- Fuel system defects that can result in fires in the event of a crash
- Accelerator controls that break or get struck
- Wheel components that break or come loose, resulting in loss of vehicle control
- Engine cooling fan blades that suddenly break
- Failed windshield wiper assemblies that can result in visibility issues
- Seats, headrests or seat backs that suddenly fail
- Electrical wiring defects that result in car fires; and,
- Faulty or dangerous airbags that deploy unexpectedly or project dangerous materials
How likely am I to drive a defective car?
Defects are very common, even in brand new cars. Luckily, under federal law, new car dealers are required to repair all safety recalls before a car can be sold to the public.
Used car dealers, on the other hand, are not required to do so. In fact, there are no laws even requiring them to disclose to a buyer that a car has an open recall or safety defect. As a result, car buyers are forced to take matters into their own hands.
Recently, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety launched an investigation into online used car company AutoNation. According to the report, approximately 285 of the used cars sold across 28 of the company's locations had open, unrepaired safety recalls.
These included the Takata airbags and General Motors ignition switches that were already recalled by the NHTSA. Both defects have resulted in hundreds of traffic fatalities.
What can I do to protect myself?
If you have already owned a car for a significant amount of time, you will likely be notified of an open recall by mail. If you're not sure if your car, or the car you're about to purchase, has an open recall, you can do some digging yourself.
The NHTSA allows you to check for open recalls by searching the vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is located where the driver's side dashboard meets the steering wheel.
If you were involved in a car accident due to a safety defect, you may have a right to take legal action:
- Your car had a defect that you weren't aware of, which resulted in either a single-vehicle crash or a collision with another car.
- The driver of another car had a vehicle safety defect that resulted in you being hit.
Crashes caused by car defects are often complex. An experienced Maryland car accident attorney can launch an investigation into your crash and find out who or what was at fault by hiring the right experts and doing a thorough investigation. Responsible parties may be:
- The driver of another car, if he or she was aware of a safety defect and failed to address it
- A car or parts manufacturer
- A mechanic who failed to properly repair the car
- The car dealership who sold a dangerous car
If you have any questions about which course of legal action you can take, the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC can answer. With our law office located in Rockville, MD, we serve clients throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Contact us online today for a free consultation.