Car accidents happen. They’re an inherent risk that we accept to reap the benefits of vehicle ownership—the freedom, the independence, and the exhilaration that we experience behind the wheel. However, this doesn’t mean that all accidents are unavoidable.
Thousands of accidents occur every year because of negligence or wrongdoing, leaving victims and their families in dire circumstances. All such accidents are difficult to grapple with, but perhaps the most infuriating are those caused by mechanical failure. After all, we spend thousands of dollars on a car we believe to be designed with care and precision.
Furthermore, when a car doesn’t perform as advertised, it chips away at an economic cornerstone—the relationship between manufacturer and consumer. It erodes the trust that makes commercial transactions possible.
Thankfully, negligent automakers can be held accountable. Under the law, you may seek compensation if you suffered an injury because of an automotive mechanical failure.
4 Types of Mechanical Failure
Although safety standards have grown increasingly stringent over the decades, cars still manage to roll off the assembly line with design and engineering flaws. These defects range from minor to severe, and while some may never lead to an accident, others will cause catastrophic levels of destruction.
Here are some common mechanical failures to look out for:
Tire blowouts cause thousands of accidents every year. A tire may fail for many reasons, but frequent causes include over/under inflation, debris in the road, and overuse.
Realizing you can’t stop while driving is one of the most harrowing experiences you can have behind the wheel. Astonishingly, many drivers have first-hand knowledge. Brake failure may occur if the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system malfunctions causing the brake to become unresponsive. Defective brakes cause some of the most severe accidents.
Yes. Even cars are computer-operated in the 21st century. The modern automobile utilizes complex software to keep everything running smoothly; serious accidents may occur if this software malfunctions. Unfortunately, like with other personal computers, car computers have vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit.
Defective Steering System
A car becomes a death trap when it’s impossible to steer. The steering wheel is the source of many steering defects. The wheel of a car contains many interdependent parts that may render the whole steering apparatus useless if just one becomes inoperable.
Mechanical Failure Claims and Legal Theories
Generally speaking, mechanical failure legal claims come in three forms:
- Defective design claims: Cars are designed according to the detailed specifications of experienced automotive engineers. However, thousands of car accidents occur every year because of design flaws. Here, plaintiffs argue that the maker should have used safer alternative designs.
- Defective manufacturing claims: Errors frequently occur during the manufacturing process and, more specifically, during assembly. These errors may occur because of issues in the assembly plant or faulty testing procedures.
- Defective repair claims: Even the most solidly built car will undergo routine repairs at some point. Unfortunately, some auto repair shops take shortcuts that lead to mechanical failure. Thankfully, these less scrupulous shops can be held accountable in a court of law.
Most mechanical failure claims are brought under a theory of negligence. To bring a negligence claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care, the defendant violated that duty, that duty resulted in an injury, and that injury was more than nominal.
For example, perhaps a plaintiff alleges that the mechanical failure resulted from a design flaw. Under a theory of negligence, they must demonstrate that: a) they were owed a duty of care by the designer; b) the designer violated that duty when they designed a car that was hazardous to consumers; the design flaw caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and c) the plaintiff’s injuries were the more than nominal.
It’s important to emphasize that the defendant’s negligence must have caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Even if the defendant’s behavior was outrageously negligent, if it didn’t cause an injury, there is no claim.
However, not all mechanical failure claims are brought under a theory of negligence, rather, some are brought under a theory of strict liability. The plaintiff need not satisfy a set of elements to bring a strict liability claim; they don’t even have to prove causation. They simply need to prove that the accident happened for their action to be successful.
A Closer Look at Damages
When a mechanical failure lawsuit is successful, the court will demand the defendant pay the plaintiff financial compensation for their injuries. This compensation is known as damages.
Damages strictly address the plaintiff’s injuries to return them to the condition they enjoyed before the accident. In common legal parlance, they make the victim whole again.
Damages are monetary and non-monetary.
Monetary damages address economic injuries that are easy to convert into a monetary value. Lost wages and medical debt are both included in this category.
Non-monetary damages, on the other hand, address more abstract claims that aren’t so easy to convert into dollars and cents. In this category, you have claims for pain and suffering, mental trauma, and loss of consortium. To be granted non-monetary damages, plaintiffs usually have to provide testimony from an expert witness, such as a doctor or a psychiatrist.
Coming to terms with a severe car accident is never easy. However, the process is especially complex when a mechanical failure is the root of the accident. Victims are often left wondering, “Maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation if a company had simply acted responsibly.”
Thankfully, victims don’t have to suffer in silence. With the help of an experienced car accident attorney, they can file a lawsuit against those responsible. A successful suit may result in a significant financial award.
Virginia residents shouldn’t hesitate to take action. Mechanical failure lawsuits often require extensive discovery and could take months, or even years, to resolve. Furthermore, Virginia imposes a two-year statute of limitations on all car accident lawsuits. Failure to act promptly could mean permanently forfeiting the right to legal recourse.
If cost is a concern, many law firms offer a free initial consultation at no out-of-pocket cost to the client.