Defective Vehicle Design
Defective vehicle design is a key area of concern as they may cause a car accident to occur or may result in injuries that would have been avoided if the vehicle had been properly designed. Since 1996, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was authorized to set standards for automobile safety and require automobile companies to recall defective vehicles, millions of automobiles including passenger cars, commercial trucks, and motorcycles have been withdrawn from the market. Often, manufacturers cut back on correct design processes to reduce costs and speed up delivery schedules. By the time a defective vehicle is recalled, it could have contributed to several accidents and injuries.
Types of Vehicle Defects
- Defective Tires
Tire failures or blowouts are a significant cause of rollovers. In recent years, some of the country's biggest tire companies, including Firestone and Cooper Tires, have been linked to design flaws and shoddy production values resulting in tires with poor tread adherence. Tread separation is one of the most common reasons for a tire blowout and can be attributed to poor tread design.
- Fuel System Defects
Fuel tanks may be incorrectly positioned, placing the tank system at a higher risk of impact during an accident. Fuel tanks are also prone to welding failures and often lack safety devices that stop gas flow in the event of an accident. Accidents related to fuel tank defects are some of the most preventable, and yet, vehicle fires and explosions continue to occur on American roads.
- Seat Belt & Airbag Defects
Seat belt systems and airbags have contributed significantly to the reduction of automobile fatalities. However, when these safety devices come with defects, they can cause severe injuries to those they are meant to protect. Seat belts can become unlatched or tear during impact and airbags may fail to deploy or may deploy at the wrong moment, increasing the possibility of injuries.
- Car & SUV Roof Collapse
The most significant risk to passengers in a car or SUV rollover accident is roof crush or collapse. While some amount of damage to the roof may be unavoidable during a rollover, catastrophic injuries to occupants are usually the result of a weak, unsteady roof support system that causes the roof to disintegrate in the event of an accident.
Uncontrolled Acceleration in Vehicles
Uncontrolled acceleration is also described as unexplained or sudden acceleration. It may be described as a situation in which a vehicle speeds up or moves ahead without any action on the part of the driver. Many auto safety experts believe that a majority of uncontrolled acceleration cases go unreported. Part of the reason for these may be that many of these accelerations occur when the car is already moving along at a reasonably high speed. Still, several vehicles in recent years have been linked to incidents of uncontrolled acceleration.
Auto manufacturers continue to insist there are no design defects that can explain such unchecked acceleration in the vehicles that they are creating, but passengers who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents caused by such unprovoked speeding know otherwise.
If you were driving your vehicle when it suddenly accelerated for no apparent reason and an accident occurred, you may be able to take legal action against the manufacturer. With a product liability lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation that will cover medical bills, as well as future medical care, lost earnings, loss of potential earnings, and even emotional trauma. The auto product liability attorneys at Arnold & Itkin can provide knowledgeable insight and aggressive legal representation for a claim involving acceleration defects.
Injuries Caused by Sudden, Unexplained Acceleration
Sudden acceleration can lead to severe accidents when a motorist is unable to control the car. The resulting injuries can be catastrophic. As modern vehicles come with more sophisticated features, the possibility that these high-tech systems conceal defects, especially in software controls, is a real one. Unfortunately, auto manufacturers are continually focusing their energies on creating the next supercar that will change the future of the industry, and introducing it as quickly as possible into the American market, without testing it properly.
Auto Makers Deny Reports of Uncontrolled Acceleration
Toyota's line of 2006 and 2007 Tacoma pick up models has been the subject of an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over reports of uncontrolled acceleration. It was the fourth such sudden acceleration-related probe into Toyota vehicles in a span of three years. Drivers have complained of the engine revving up when the brakes were applied, leading to a potentially disastrous accident.
Another Toyota car, the Prius Hybrid, has generated hundreds of complaints about uncontrolled acceleration. The company has recalled the vehicles and examined their electronic software, but these investigations have proved inconclusive. In such cases, accidents have been entirely avoided because drivers have been able to control the vehicle and prevent a crash. Meanwhile, complaints of uncontrolled acceleration with the Prius continue to come in. Ford also recalled its Ranger models after throttle defects lead to sudden acceleration.
Despite charges from several consumer safety experts, auto manufacturers refuse to admit any mechanical defect in the vehicle was responsible for the unexpected acceleration. They blamed drivers instead, choosing to present the problem as one that is imagined—not real. Auto safety advocates argue that an issue that is the product of a motorist's imagination would likely be found across all models of cars, rather than restricted to a few. Manufacturers are at a loss as to why such reports of uncontrolled acceleration are so restricted.
Lexus Floor Mat Recall: Acceleration Malfunctions
Later, Lexus announced even more recalls for their Lexus and Toyota models because of floor mat defects.
According to accident reports, the floor mat in some of the company's models was entrapping the accelerator pedal. Those whose vehicles are affected by the recall are asked to take their vehicle in immediately. If this is experienced while driving, drivers should put on the breaks, but their car into neutral and then pull over. Lexus has issued a recall of approximately 131,800 2010 RX350s and 22,200 2010 RX450h vehicles. Until more can be done to remedy the problem, Lexus encourages drivers to remove the driver's side floor mat.
Defect Information Report
Because Lexus was getting an overwhelming amount of complaints relating to this acceleration issue, they filed a defect information report with the NHTSA. Vehicles that were also affected are some 2006 and 2007 models of the GS 300 and GS 350 because of the same issue. The plastic pad beneath the driver's side carpet was interfering with the accelerator pedal and causing it to be stuck in the accelerated position. The voluntary recall also affected RX 330, 350, and 400h vehicles so that the carpet cover and retention clips could be replaced.
Among other types of auto product liability are tire defects and steering defects. Lexus also issued a recall back in 2011 for a defective crankshaft pulley in some of their vehicles. They recalled 283,200 Toyota and 137,000 Lexus vehicles because of a problem with their V6 engines. In some vehicles, the pulley was becoming unaligned with the inner ring. This could potentially result in a loss of steering control.
- 2004 Avalon
- 2004 & 2005 Camry, Highlander, Sienna & Solara
- 2006 Highlander HV
- 2004 and 2005 ES 330 and RX 330
- 2006 RX 400h
Defective Seat Design
Seatbacks that have a weak and unstable structure are prone to collapse during a collision, placing occupants at high risk for serious head and bodily injuries. Passengers have suffered head, neck, and spinal cord injuries, as well as organ damage, paralysis, and even death as a result of partial or complete ejection from the seat. This includes incidents where passengers are thrown against the vehicle's interior upon impact.
The seats in a car may have a significant impact on the extent of the injury caused by collision—especially if the seat is defective. Design flaws and manufacturing defects can have serious consequences for passengers; in these cases, the manufacturer may be held accountable. Our attorneys can talk to you about your options and legal rights if you or someone you know has been injured as the result of a defective seat. Defective seat design can result in malfunctioning seat belts, weak seat-backs, and seats that eject passengers in the event of an accident. Passengers sitting in any of the seats can be at risk during an accident, but those who occupy the back seats have a greater risk of serious injuries or wrongful death.
Common Risks Associated with Defective Seats
Vehicles with bucket seats put occupants at a higher risk for injury than regular seats. These risks typically include bending or collapsing of the seat-backs during impact. Considering that the passenger may be belted in or restrained to their seat, it's easy to understand how defective seats can cause injuries, even during a minor accident. The injuries become even more serious when young children occupy the seats. Another risk with a defective seat is the danger of partial or complete ejection. A properly designed seat back must be able to keep its occupant restrained in the seat without throwing them forward against the windshield or the front seat in an accident. Failure of the seat back can throw occupants about during impact. Collapse of the seat back can be attributed to weak structure of the seat that does little to protect passengers from an ejection.
Defective Seat Designs Lead to Recalls
Ford has had problems related to defective seats in a number of its vehicles, including the Escort. In 1992, the company investigated the stability of its car seats and concluded that occupants were exposed to serious injuries during an accident. General Motors, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi have also had some of their models linked to seat-back failure as a result of defective design. Daimler Chrysler Corporation has faced lawsuits from passengers who suffered serious injuries due to crushed seats during rear-ending accidents.
Injuries Caused by Defective Seat Design
Seat back collapse and ejection can lead to severe injuries. When the seat fails to restrain the passenger during impact, he or she may be thrown toward the windshield, the front seat, or the interior of the vehicle—causing severe body trauma, head and neck injuries, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, crushed body parts, organ damage, and more. During partial ejection, passengers may receive the full and devastating impact of being crushed under the weight of the vehicle as it overturns. Paraplegia, quadriplegia, and even death may result.
Defective Power Windows
Virtually all new vehicles introduced in the American market come with power windows. Although these make it easier for passengers to open and shut windows, they have been the cause of many injuries over the years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 500 people suffer from power window-related injuries every year. Most of those injured are children below the age of 15.
Since the onset of their popularity in the early 90s, approximately 58 people have died and hundreds have been injured due to power window defects.
For a person who has been severely injured by a defective power window, life may become increasingly difficult. Medical bills may pile up. Trying to deal with insurance claims and other matters related to the incident can be complex and frustrating. The physical pain of the incident may cause lasting emotional trauma, as may the financial problems that may arise. In these situations, you should turn to a product liability lawyer.
An attorney can help with a claim or lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective power window, seeking financial compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, and various other expenses or losses that the incident has caused. Though the manufacturer may have considerable resources to counteract a product liability lawsuit, an experienced attorney can take a stand to protect an injured consumer's rights nonetheless.
Causes of Power Window Accidents
- Rocker Switches – The passenger presses one end of the switch to open or shut the window.
- Toggle Switches – The passenger presses the switch forward to operate the power window.
Both switches are easy for children to operate, resulting in hundreds rushed to emergency rooms with fractured / crushed fingers and dislocations. However, the third kind of switch, the lever switch, is more difficult for children of this high-risk age group to operate. This switch is operated by pulling up on the switch. Auto safety advocates have been urging motor vehicle companies to use the lever switch system, making it harder for children to operate windows. Daimler Chrysler and General Motors have recently introduced passenger car models with the lever switch power window mechanism. However, the majority of American made cars continue to use the rocker or toggle switch systems.
Safety mechanisms that force windows to open automatically when obstructed can prevent most injuries and deaths. These safety mechanisms work in much the same manner as elevator doors, which open when blocked by an object or person. Most American cars are not equipped with these safety mechanisms; however, they are common in Japanese and European models. An overwhelming majority of accidents caused by power windows can be prevented if automobile manufacturers invest in safety mechanisms and lever switches.
Contact an Automobile Product Liability Attorney at (888) 493-1629
In going up against an auto manufacturer, distributor, or retailer, it can be difficult to ensure your legal rights are protected properly and that your claim is given the attention and importance it deserves. The manufacturer may actively try to limit their liability, leaving you with limited options or even without the ability to seek financial compensation at all. A product liability attorney with experience in dealing with automobile defects can make a significant difference, not only in proving liability but in seeking the full and fair value of your claim.
At Arnold & Itkin, we assist clients throughout the U.S. with auto product liability lawsuits. We believe in consumers' rights and are dedicated to protecting these to the fullest extent in all cases we handle related to defective auto parts. From defective power windows to defective seat belts and faulty fuel systems, we understand how to investigate these matters and build compelling cases that prove manufacturer liability.
In offering a free consultation to review the circumstances surrounding your claim, we give you the opportunity to learn more about your options and your legal rights. If you have questions that need to be answered, a product liability attorney at our firm can provide you with straightforward answers that apply to your particular situation. We wish to help you make informed choices about your case so you can seek justice.
Contact an auto product liability lawyer at Arnold & Itkin LLP to get the answers you need. Call us today at (888) 493-1629.