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Five potential auto product defects after an accident

After an accident, it is important to explore potential automobile defects that may have caused serious injuries.

In many ways, cars are safer now due to advances in technology. That doesn't mean, however, that defective auto products don't cause injuries in an accident. When fatal or catastrophic automobile accidents occur, it may be worthwhile to investigate whether an automobile defect claim can be filed against liable parties.

Below are five types of established automobile product defects to explore after an injury-causing accident.

1) Stability and handling

Stability and handling defects often go hand-in-hand. Stability refers to how likely a vehicle is to tip and roll over. Handling relates to how well a vehicle responds to driver steering, acceleration and braking.

  • Vehicles that are lower to the ground and flatter in shape are typically more stable than larger vehicles that are higher off the ground, such as SUVs, trucks and vans.
  • Excessive understeer or oversteer in a vehicle can impact a vehicle's handling and lead to the driver losing control of the vehicle.
  • Accelerator design defects, although difficult to prove, are among the most dangerous, causing dangerous, uncontrollable acceleration.
  • Brake design and manufacturing defects, or substandard repairs, can also lead to some of the most serious car crashes.

Accidents also can be caused by power steering failure; wheel, axle and ball joint defects; "Hydro boost" defects; and faulty Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems.

2) Crashworthiness

Vehicle crashworthiness is based on the idea that common types of collisions should be foreseeable to designers and manufacturers. Therefore, if a vehicle's occupant is injured or killed in a crash, these parties may be liable for not providing sufficient protection. Common issues related to crashworthiness include:

  • Side impact design - Was the steel used in the frame and chassis adequate thickness and tinsel strength? Was there enough interior padding to protect occupants?
  • Roof crush - Was there enough "occupant survival space" when the roof was crushed? Does the roof crush inward toward the vehicle occupants, resulting in partial ejection from the vehicle?
  • Head restraints - Was there a lack of or improper head restraints in the vehicle at the time of the crash?

3) Restraint system failure

A vehicle's restraint system includes seatbelts, airbags and seatbacks. How well these items contain occupants during an accident can greatly affect the severity of injuries.

  • Seatbelt defects can include latch failures, such as inadvertent unlatching or false latching, and spooling or retracting belts
  • Airbags can fail to deploy, be overly-aggressive in deployment or deploy inadvertently. There also can be cases where airbags are missing completely from a vehicle.
  • Seatback failures occur when a seat fails to maintain rigidity during an accident, causing it to collapse forward or drop backward.

4) Fuel tank fires

Fuel-fed fires can often occur in or around the gas tank after a collision. Often a fire starts because of excess gasoline releasing from the tank or the filler neck entering the tank during a collision - both the result of a gas tank not being properly protected.

5) Tire tread separation

Tread separation, sometimes called "delamination" or "detread" is when the lawyer of steel belts on a tire separate, causing a loss of the tread on the outside of the tire. Tires become more susceptible to tread separation as they age, even when they are not being used.

For more information

The information above merely touches the surface regarding automobile defects. Other issues include brake-shift interlock failure, park to reverse/drive defects and power window injuries.

For more information about this issue, read Spotting the Potential Auto Product Liability Case by Brenden P. Leydon, a partner at Tooher Wocl & Leydon LLC.