An unfortunate reality for people injured or killed in a motor vehicle collision is that most drivers only carry the minimum coverage required by the state in which they live. This means that in most instances, the negligent driver is vastly underinsured.
Although some auto defects cause collisions, as in the Toyota sudden acceleration or GM Ignition Switches instances, these claims more often involve “crash-worthiness” or “enhanced injury.” Crash-worthiness claims arise when a vehicle fails in a manner that causes more serious injuries than would have occurred without the defect. For this reason, our Las Vegas car accident attorney has created a quick reference guide for you to ensure vehicle safety.
Auto defect detection: Key considerations
• A minor collision at residential speeds results in catastrophic injury or death. When the vehicle inspection and accident report review suggests that the injuries should have been minor, but they are not, this many be an indication of an auto defect. In most cases, occupants of a vehicle should not be catastrophically injured in a minor collision.
• A single occupant is severely injured or killed while other occupants suffer minor, if any, injuries. If other occupants of the damaged vehicle can walk away from a collision when one person was severely injured, this strongly indicates that an auto defect caused the injured person’s injures to be worse than they would have been otherwise.
• Failure of, or severe damage to a localized area of the vehicle. Substantial damage to a small area of the vehicle suggest that an area or component failed. These cases include tire blowout or detread, roof crush and seatbelt failure.
• Seatbelt occupants are seriously injured or ejected. Seatbelts should protect occupants, not injure them. Seatbelt induced injuries, such as abdominal and spinal cord injuries, are a telltale sign of a seatbelt failure. Seatbelts should also keep occupants inside the vehicle. Ejection injuries to a belted occupant suggest that the belt failed to properly restrain that person.
• Fuel-Fed Fires can turn a minor crash into an inferno. Over the past several decades, fuel system design has improved, but automakers still may place fuel tanks in positions where they can be crushed or compromised in a collision, often failing to adequately protect the fuel tank from puncture damage.
• Defective seat backs can fail during a collision causing the occupant’s torso to move backward to the rear seat. This can cause devastating injuries to the seat occupant, as well as anyone in the rear seat. A seat-back failure is usually not obvious, and unfortunately first-responders may need to lift or alter the seat-back position when they extract rear-seat passengers, making these defects even more difficult to identify. Seat backs commonly fail because they are made of weak materials, such as plastic or hollow metal tubing, or because the reclining mechanism bends and twists during even low-speed impacts, which allows the seat to collapse backwards.
• When a tire is defective, it robs the vehicle of its only point of contact with the road. So, when a tire fails, it is highly likely that the driver will lose control of the vehicle. Tire defects are typically identified by evidence of a catastrophic failure, such as a blowout or detread. Tires that are older or are “aged” are at a higher risk of failure, particularly in warmer climates, even if they have never been used or have little wear and nearly full tread depth, despite being “aged.”
• At-fault drivers can have a faulty airbag case. Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver and/or passenger sides of vehicles. See: The dangers of a defective airbag. The NHTSA has called this recall “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.” The root cause of this massive recall is airbags that use ammonium nitrate-based propellent without a chemical drying agent. To date, 15 people have died in the United States and over 300 injuries, many of them serious. Make sure you check to see if your vehicle has a safety issue or recall!
For more detailed information regarding motor vehicle defects and safety recalls, download the “Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls” booklet provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. If you have access to your VIN number, a quick search on this site can tell you a lot about your vehicle.