What is a Motor Vehicle Defect Lawsuit?
A motor vehicle defect lawsuit is any lawsuit filed after a faulty car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle causes injuries and damages. It may be a design in the vehicle that is faulty or a component or manufacturing mistake.
When Do I Need to File a Motor Vehicle Defect Lawsuit?
A lawsuit is not always necessary, because many manufacturers or other liable parties will pay a settlement. When they refuse to pay or the offer is inadequate, many victims choose to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
If you have been injured because of a defective vehicle, consider your legal options quickly. States set statutes of limitations on when you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. If you miss the window, which can be as little as one year from the time of the injury, you may miss the opportunity to get any compensation.
Who Can Help Me with a Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations, and other rules regarding lawsuits, can be complicated for someone not experienced in the law. You need a vehicle defect lawyer or personal injury lawyer with experience in these cases to help you.
The right lawyer will evaluate your case for free, give you advice on what to do next, provide a reasonable estimate of the outcome of a lawsuit, and help you get through all the steps necessary to file and follow through with a lawsuit.
Can I Sue if the Car Did Not Belong to Me?
Owning a defective vehicle that harmed you is not a requirement for seeking damages. A lawyer can help you sort out the details of your case, but you probably still have a case for products liability if the car belonged to someone else. Even if someone else drove the car when the incident occurred, you likely have a case.
Who is Liable for a Motor Vehicle Defect?
The defendants in a motor vehicle defect lawsuit are usually the vehicle manufacturer. They are responsible for providing cars and other vehicles with overall safe designs and functioning, safe components. Other potential defendants include:
- Parts manufacturers. It may be a part made by a separate company that is defective and causes an accident. The manufacturer of a defective component may be liable in a vehicle accident.
- Dealerships or parts shops. Those who make the cars and parts are often liable, but the companies selling them can also be held liable for damages resulting from defects. They have a responsibility to sell functioning, safe vehicles and products to consumers.
- Shippers or distributors. Likewise, the companies that move the product is part of the chain of distribution and can be held liable in some cases.
- Used car dealers. Holding the seller of a used car liable for damages is not as straightforward, but your lawyer may be able to prove they were at least partly negligent in your accident.
How Will My Lawyer Prove Liability in the Lawsuit?
If you decide to go through with a lawsuit, your lawyer will help you determine who to sue and what type of lawsuit to file. Most cases involving a vehicle defect are cases of products liability. To prove a manufacturer or dealership is liable for damages, your lawyer must prove three things:
- That the vehicle had a safety-related defect that caused your injury and resulted in damages
- That you did not use the vehicle in an unsafe manner or in a way not intended by the manufacturer
- That the vehicle at the time of the accident was in the same relative shape as when you bought it
In some cases, an accident involving a defect also involved negligence. For instance, if another driver caused the accident and you suffered injuries because your airbag failed to inflate, you may have a case for both negligence and products liability.
What Can I Recover in Damages?
Damages are highly dependent on individual cases. What you can recover depends on several factors:
- The extent of your injuries and medical expenses
- An estimate of your future medical needs and costs
- Lost wages
- Whether or not you will be able to return to work in the future
- Permanent disabilities
- State laws, such as caps on non-economic damages or comparative negligence
What Are the Steps in a Motor Vehicle Defect Lawsuit?
Your lawyer will take you through the steps of a motor vehicle defect lawsuit if you choose to sue. It helps to have an understanding of the process and what to expect:
- File a Complaint. The first, official step in a lawsuit is the complaint. This document notifies the defendants and outlines the accusations. Your lawyer will likely try to get a settlement from the defendants’ insurance company before taking this step.
- Gather Evidence. Whether they like it or not, the defendants must proceed with the lawsuit. This means that both sides investigate the incident and gather evidence to prove or disprove liability. During a discovery period, the defendants and your lawyer share information and hold depositions.
- Negotiate a Settlement. With all the evidence in hand, many defendants choose to settle at this point. Your lawyer negotiates with their lawyers to get you a fair amount of compensation.
- Go to Trial. Most civil lawsuits, like those involving motor vehicle defects, never go to trial. However, if the settlement step fails, your lawyer can litigate on your behalf in court. They present evidence and expert testimony to prove liability.
- Get a Verdict. The jury will decide if the defendants are liable for your damages. If they decide in your favor, they will also award you a certain amount. Collecting damages may be delayed by an appeal, which is one reason most victims prefer a settlement out of court.
A motor vehicle defect lawsuit is a big step to take, but it is often necessary. If you have struggled because of an accident injury, talk to a lawyer about your options.