When Car Safety Features Fail, Who is Responsible?

As our cars’ safety and technological features increase in complexity every year, you may be concerned about how safe they are. It’s difficult to give up control of your speed, braking, and lane changes to a machine. We’re so trained to actively drive our cars that it can be disconcerting when your steering wheel thinks you’re trying to change lanes without signaling when you’re really passing through a construction zone with old, faded lane lines crossing through your path. At least three people have already died in driverless car crashes. As our automotive future “steers” us towards driverless cars, should we be concerned? And what happens when our car safety features don’t work the way they should?

Car Safety Feature Failures

We take many car safety features for granted these days. From airbags to seat belts, we assume they’ll keep us safe when we need them to. Unfortunately, no safety feature is infallible. Let’s take airbags, for instance. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of 248 fatal car crashes from 1990 to 2007, airbags failed to deploy for 18% of front-seat occupants. Nine percent of those passengers died. Overall, about eight percent of crashes involve an airbag that didn’t deploy. So, airbags sometimes don’t deploy when they should.

Airbags can also deploy when they shouldn’t or cause injuries when they deploy during an accident. Probably the most famous of these airbag defects involves the Takata airbag recall. Car manufacturers recalled more than 67 million airbags from 42 million cars in the U.S. after dozens of deaths resulted from airbags throwing metal shrapnel onto car passengers.

Defective Design and Manufacturing

When car safety features fail or malfunction and cause an injury, the manufacturer of both the car and the part may be responsible for either defective manufacturing or design.

  1. Design Defect: A design defect makes a product or safety feature unsafe for its intended purpose.
  2. Manufacturing Defect: A manufacturing defect may occur despite a safe design, with some defect in manufacturing making the product unsafe.

Theories of Liability

There are typically three ways to hold manufacturers responsible for car safety product failures, including:

  1. Strict Liability: Under strict liability, manufacturers are liable for a defect even if they didn’t know about it or take any negligent actions. The defective product that caused harm is enough to make the manufacturer liable.
  2. Negligence: Manufacturers have a legal duty not to take any action which is reasonably likely to cause the product to harm others. Cutting corners in manufacturing to save money could be an example of a negligent action.
  3. Breach of Warranty: If your car safety features fail, it may also be considered a breach of an implied or explicit warranty.

An experienced attorney can analyze your case and determine the best options for a lawsuit if necessary. But as car manufacturers give us more and more features to “assist” our driving and keep us safe, it’s important to remember that there’s no substitute for safe driving.

Hire an Experienced New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve been involved in an accident because of a car safety failure or airbag failure, you may be entitled to compensation. At Tenn And Tenn, P.A., our experienced New Hampshire car accident lawyers may be able to help. Our skilled attorneys have helped hundreds of New Hampshire families involved in car accidents. Give us a call at (888) 332-5855 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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