Auto defects and injuries: Lessons for victims

Regulations are present to reduce the risk of injury associated with a defective vehicle. Manufacturers that violate these laws may be held accountable if an injury results.

The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 32,675 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2014. A number of factors can contribute to these accidents, including distraction, incapacitation and defects within the vehicles. In an effort to reduce the risk of defects in automobiles causing these accidents or further contributing to injuries, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 was passed. This law gives power to the NHTSA to issue vehicle safety standards. Vehicles that do not meet these standards must be recalled by the manufacturers. The NHTSA reports that since this law was passed, over 390 million vehicles and 42 million child safety seats have been recalled due to safety defects.

Regulations present to help reduce risk of injury: The basics

Under this law, manufacturers are required to report safety defects to the NHTSA as soon as they are aware of the issue. The agency notes that motor vehicle safety is defined as:

[T]he performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment 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.

Some examples of these issues include defects that impact steering components, accelerator controls, air bag failures, defective child safety seats and unexpected failures associated with the seat or seat back. A failure to meet set standards can result in a recall. In these situations, the manufacturer must inform not just the NHTSA, but also vehicle owners, dealers and distributors of the issue. The manufacturer is also required to remedy the problem without cost to the owner.

Regulations brought to life: An example

A recent court case out of Texas brought attention to the damage that can result when a seat fails to operate as intended. In the case, a father was driving his children to school when the vehicle was rear ended. The father's seat failed to perform its duty and allowed for his head to strike his son's, who was seated directly behind him. The driver's seven year-old son suffered from serious injuries and was left blind in one eye and partially paralyzed as a result of the accident. According to a local ABC affiliate, the driver argued that had his seat done the job it was designed to do, his head would not have made contact with his son's and his son may not have suffered these injuries.

The jury for this case found in favor of the family and ordered the auto manufacturer and the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended the family to pay almost $125 million in damages.

Lessons from the case: Legal counsel can help

This case provides just one of many examples of how a defect within a vehicle can result in serious injury to the drivers and passengers using the vehicle. Those who are injured in an auto crash and suspect that a defect may have contributed to their injuries may be eligible to receive compensation from the manufacturer to help cover the costs associated with the accident. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.