Car accidents are never planned. Yet, these unexpected events are frequently life-changing for those involved with them. Because of this, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a set of standards for automobile makers. These sets include product liability standards that hold automobile manufacturers liable for faulty and dangerous parts.
The NHTSA requires that “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment [works] in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”
In other words, car manufacturers must make sure that their vehicles operate as expected and without problems that could cause serious injuries during regular situations—this includes a vehicle’s performance during typical driving conditions and during accidents.
What Are Motor Vehicle Safety Defects?
Understanding what qualifies as a safety defect is important. For example, a car with a steering design that can fail from typical use would be considered as having a safety defect. However, a car that has a steering issue because a driver ignored a problem unique to their vehicle would likely not be considered a safety defect. Essentially, safety defects are problems that are inherent to a vehicle’s design and, as a result, are likely to be widespread.
The NHTSA clarifies its definition of a defect with these two qualifiers:
- Defects pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety
- Defects may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacturer, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacturer.
Not all defects are considered safety issues. If a specific model of car has a problem that causes air conditioners to fail, it has a defect. Since this defect is one related to a comfort feature rather than safety, it's unlikely that air conditioner defects would qualify as a product liability issue.
Common Motor Vehicle Defects
Knowing what vehicle safety defects are common can help consumers identify and prevent problems that can cause serious—and often fatal—car accidents. The NHTSA provides a list of safety defects that it commonly sees in vehicles.
Common vehicle defects listed by the NHTSA include:
- Steering components that break and cause drivers to lose control
- Fuel system issues that can be dangerous during accidents by triggering a fire or explosion
- Accelerators that get stuck or continue to work when drivers aren’t using them
- Wheels that can’t safely support a vehicle and crack, break, or cause an unexpected loss of control
- Tires that are prone to sudden blowouts
- Engine cooling fans that break and injure mechanics
- Windshield wipers that don’t work as they should and reduce visibility during adverse weather
- Seats that fail during normal use, including those with backs that are susceptible break and cause an accident
- Wiring systems that can trigger fires or stop working when needed at night for safety
- Airbags that fail to deploy or those that deploy when they shouldn’t
- Car seats and booster seats that don’t have adequate belts, buckles, or other components that place children and any other occupants of a vehicle at risk during a collision
Injured Because of a Defective Automotive Part? Help Is Available at (888) 493-1629.
Arnold & Itkin LLP is a trusted name when comes to auto product liability claims. Whether someone is suffering because of defective tires, fuel system issues, or problems with safety features such as seat belts and airbags defects, our team is ready to help. We’ve recovered billions of dollars for clients, often while facing some of the largest companies in the world.
Call our auto product liability lawyers today at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation. We’re ready to listen to what happened and help you decide what options for recovery are available to you.