Billings Auto Defect Attorney
We rely on our vehicles for safe transportation. Sometimes, a product within the vehicle, such as brakes or airbags, will not function properly, and the manufacturer will issue a recall. Some recalls are minor, while others are for defects capable of causing serious injuries.
Automotive defects fall under the legal concept of product liability, which holds that everyone involved in the manufacture, distribution, and retailing of a product has an obligation to inform the consumer about proper use, warn of the risks, and maintain the safety and efficacy of the product itself. If they fail in this duty of care, it’s called negligence, which forms the framework for a personal injury claim. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration keeps a full list of vehicle recalls, so check to see if yours is safe to drive.
If you’re currently experiencing automotive defects, contact our Billings auto defect attorneys at Heenan & Cook, PLLC and we can help walk you through your case.
Types of Automotive Defects
There are several types of automotive defects. These are the most common:
- Airbag failure. The massive Takata airbag recall taught us just how dangerous an auto defect can be, especially when it comes to our airbags. An airbag defect can cause the unit to fail to deploy, or deploy incorrectly. In the case of the Takata failure, airbags deployed incorrectly, sometimes sending shards of metal into the driver. In cases like this, you may be able to join a mass tort lawsuit.
- Seat belt failure. We know how important seat belts are in minimizing injuries in case of accident. When seat belts fail, injuries are often fatal or catastrophic. A seat belt may fail as the result of a defect, or an inherent flaw in the design of the product.
- Rollover accidents. Some vehicles are more prone to rollover than others, specifically those with a higher center of gravity, such as SUVs or ATVs. When vehicles don’t go through proper crash and simulation testing, manufacturers may negligently put a rollover-prone vehicle on the market.
Reasons for Auto Defects: Who Is Liable?
One of the most important aspects of litigating an auto defect case is determining who committed negligence. Anyone involved in the distribution, retail, or manufacture of a vehicle or its parts may be to blame. Your auto defect personal injury claim will likely involve one of the following possible defendants:
- The manufacturer. Generally, this is the party responsible for inherent flaws in the design of a vehicle leading to injury. While this is a large company that has the money to compensate you for your injuries, they also have the means to defend with their own lawyers.
- Parts manufacturer. If you replace your tires unknowingly with a model prone to blowouts, you would pursue a personal injury claim against the parts manufacturer. If your vehicle comes installed with a defective part, you may be able to file a claim against both the vehicle manufacturer and the parts manufacturer.
- The shipper. If something happened to your car while it was in transit to the dealership, the middleman may be liable for damages.
- The retailer. A used car dealership, auto dealership, or supply store may be liable for your injuries, if they failed to adequately warn you of the risks associated with buying a part or vehicle. Laws regarding dealership and shop owner liability vary by municipality, so consult with your attorney.
What Are Common Injuries Suffered From Auto Defects?
The possible injuries that victims of auto defects sustain can vary widely. When looking at some of the common causes of auto defects listed above, it is easy to see there is no “one” certain type of injury that occurs. Rather, injuries from defects can range from minor to severe and take many forms. At Heenan & Cook, PLLC, our Billings auto defect attorneys regularly help clients who have sustained the following:
- Broken and dislocated bones
- Severe lacerations or puncture wounds
- Amputation injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Other neck and back injuries
- Burn injuries
Aside from the initial trauma related to an auto defect accident, victims who make a recovery are often left with significant scarring or disfigurement. Not only will this affect a victim’s mental and emotional health, but their mobility may also be altered to the point where it impairs their ability to work or live their life the way they are accustomed to.
Auto defect injuries can also leave victims suffering from emotional and psychological trauma. It is not uncommon for our attorneys to help clients who are suffering from feelings of anger, pain, depression, anxiety, fear, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In the absolute worst-case scenario, a victim of an auto defect may lose their life due to an injury incident. In these cases, the family members of victims are left picking up the pieces and wondering what their next steps will be to deal with a loved one’s wrongful death.
How are Auto Defects Detected?
Unfortunately, many auto defects do not become public knowledge until after a significant number of accidents, injuries, or deaths related to the defect. Under federal law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to issue vehicle safety standards and ensure that manufacturers recall any vehicles that have safety-related defects. Since the NHTSA began regulating vehicles, hundreds of millions of vehicles have been recalled due to various defective parts.
In many cases, the NHTSA is tasked with investigating potentially defective automobiles or auto parts after they realize there has been an uptick in accidents related to the same thing. The NHTSA also operates a “Vehicle Safety Hotline telephone service to collect accurate and timely information from consumers on vehicle safety problems.” Anyone can call 1-888-327-4236 or 1-800-424-9393 toll-free from anywhere within the United States or US territories to register their complaints or receive recall information about a vehicle.
What Kind of Compensation is Available in these Cases?
Anyone who has been injured due to a defective automobile or defective auto part may be entitled to significant compensation. While each case is different and the total amount of compensation will vary depending on the factors related to a case, it is not uncommon for victims to receive the following:
- Coverage of all medical expenses related to the auto defect
- Lost wages and benefits if a victim cannot work
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of personal enjoyment damages
- Possible punitive damages against an automotive or automotive part company
Families of those who have been wrongfully killed due to a defective automobile or auto part may be entitled to recover additional compensation through a civil wrongful death lawsuit.
Finding an Auto Defect Attorney in Montana
Product liability cases, such as those involving motor vehicle part defects, are complex to litigate and have many moving parts. It’s essential to retain the services of a law firm that has knowledge and experience with these types of cases. Heenan & Cook, PLLC has successfully litigated personal injury cases, including auto defects, for more than 40 years.
Your personal injury case begins with a free case evaluation. To schedule yours today, please contact us. We offer free initial consultations for personal injury cases.