Every year, new cars are designed with increased safety features: better gas mileage, more conveniences, better in-car technology, and longer lasting equipment. Yet no car has been designed that is perfect in every aspect and that has eliminated all possible problems. Although cars continue to improve, failures in machinery continue to occur and, when things go wrong, mechanical failures can cause serious motor vehicle accidents.
Who is at-fault for Accidents Caused by Mechanical Failures?Car accidents caused by mechanical failures account for approximately 10 to 15 percent of all car accidents every year. Despite this, mechanical failures are the subject of minimal discussion and less scrutiny than many other causes of collisions.
This may be because it can be difficult to determine who is at fault for a mechanical failure and who should bear the blame – whether it is an automobile manufacturer, the designer of a specific car component, the dealer that sold the vehicle, or even a mechanic who performed maintenance on the car.
In some instances, one party may be completely to blame; while in many other instances, the blame should properly be distributed among multiple parties. Since mechanical failure accidents involve unique facts and circumstances, the result of each claim can vary widely.
Common Mechanical Failures in Motor VehiclesBefore a mass produced car is permitted for sale in the United States, it must be approved as safe by the standards set forth by the federal government. Selling a car that is unsafe is not only unwise but it can also cause a manufacturer to be liable for any damages that occur as a result of the unsafe design, including any injuries incurred in an auto accident.
There are hundreds of thousands of component parts that assemble to make a modern automobile and any one of them can be faulty in design, manufacture, or installation.
Mechanical failures can involve any number of components but some types of mechanical failures are more common than others, including:
- Brake Failure – Brakes are one of the most important safety features of a car and require more maintenance than many other parts yet too often get ignored by the owner of the vehicle. Brakes should be in working order on a new car yet as miles accumulate and as wearing occurs, brakes, brake pads, and brake shoes may need to be replaced. Failing to properly replace these parts or installing brakes that do not properly function can lead to a braking failure which in turn can cause a serious collision.
- Tire Blowout or Tire Failure – Tires are critical to the proper function of cars and a defective tire can be deadly. Tires are intended to sustain normal stresses, including those exerted by a road surface, inclement weather, and the weight of the car. When a tire is improperly designed or manufactured, it can lead the tire to fail or blowout while a car is in motion, removing a driver’s ability to control the vehicle and potentially causing an accident.
- Power Steering Failure – Power steering was designed to make it easier for drivers to make quick turns and evasive maneuvers in the case of danger, yet power steering also assists the driver with normal turns of a wheel. When power steering fails, it can be difficult to impossible to turn the wheel of a car and to steer a vehicle in motion which leaves the driver in danger of a potential collision with a fixed object or other vehicle. Power steering failures are particularly dangerous because a car with failed power steering is more difficult to maneuver than a car without power steering in the first place.
- Improper Floor Mats – Floor mats on the driver’s side of the vehicle are designed to help keep the vehicle clean but they can become a hazard if they are improperly designed or placed. If a floor mat is able to move around, it may come into contact with or block the gas and/or brake pedal, limiting the driver’s ability to control the car. It may also be possible for a floor mat to short electrical components found near the driver’s foot area which in turn can lead to a mechanical failure.
- Defroster or Defogger Failure – Front and rear defrosters are not only a convenience but also a safety device. If a mechanical short causes a defroster to stop working, condensation may accumulate and limit a driver’s ability to see the road. A restricted field of vision is more likely to lead to an accident than a driver with clear visibility meaning that a failure of a defroster or defogger may lead to a collision.
Liability for Accidents Caused by Mechanical FailuresThis is a complicated issue that is based on a number of variables. Since there are many parts on a vehicle and many hands that touch it, it’s not always clear who is liable for damage or injuries caused by an accident involving a car. Generally, there are two third parties that can be held liable for accidents due to mechanical failures or faulty products.
Manufacturer LiabilityIf the failure is related to the manufacturing or design of a vehicle part, the manufacturer may be held liable for product liability. For example, if a tire that is produced by Manu A is faulty and leads to an accident, Manu A can be considered to have acted negligently.
Mechanic LiabilityWhen parts are not the problem but the maintenance of them is, this is a different scenario. Parts that are maintained, altered, or changed by a mechanic but are not done so correctly can create unsafe driving conditions. This might be a tire that is not properly applied or brake fluid that is not refilled correctly. When an accident is caused by a mechanic’s failure to properly carry out their work, they may be liable.
Contact an Attorney with Experience Handling Mechanical FailuresAfter a collision, it may not be immediately apparent whether a mechanical failure was a factor in the crash. Sometimes it is clear that a part was defective or failed and let to a collision which in turn injured or killed passengers in the car. Regardless, it is a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney to learn whether you have a claim for your losses including any medical bills you incur.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we provide a free, no obligation telephone consultation to all car accident victims and we have a lawyer standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call at (602) 819-5191 or toll free at (855) 749-5299. Let us help you obtain a financial recovery you deserve.