Is your car wreck case actually a products liability case?.

Screening car wreck cases for products liability may show that the vehicle actually had a defect. If you are working with an experienced personal injury lawyer, specific characteristics of the crash may mean that you have a crashworthiness case.

Take the following examples:

An uncle and nephew were driving to the mall when they were hit head-on by a vehicle driving in the opposite direction. The nephew, who was in the rear seat, was paralyzed.

A tractor trailer rear ended a family driving to see her grandmother. When the vehicle burst into flames on impact, everyone was killed.

A pick-up truck swerved to miss an animal on the road and rolled over. The roof crushed inwards onto the driver’s head, injuring his spine, and he was left a quadriplegic.

In each of these cases, the families’ lawyers knew that screening car wreck cases for products liability issues may show vehicle defects. As a result, the primary defendant manufacturer was identified.

What to look for in a car wreck case

There are specific characteristics in car wreck cases that may suggest a products liability case:

A range of injuries in the same crash, from minor to severe. When this occurs, a closer inspection is needed and the following questions asked: were there any issues with seatbelts? Did the integrity of the roof fail? Did the back collapse? Any one of these factors may point to a product defect.

Was someone who was wearing their seatbelt severely hurt where crash testing shows that injuries should be minor? Comparing the crash victim to crash test dummies in a similar impact may demonstrate a product defect in the vehicle.

Was someone hurt doing everything right? For example, were people wearing their seatbelts properly but severely injured anyway? Did a simple turn of the steering wheel lead to a rollover? This may point to a vehicle’s crashworthiness.

Did a part of the vehicle that is meant to protect the occupants fail perform as it should? For example, did the airbag fail to deploy or did it deploy when it shouldn’t have? Did the roof collapse inwards into the occupant survival space? Did the tread come off a tire? There doesn’t always have to be an obvious failure for there to be a products liability case.

Did someone end up some place unexpected? For example, was someone who was wearing their seatbelt ejected from the vehicle? Did a person in the front seat end up in the back seat because their seat failed to restrain them as it should?

What is a crashworthiness case?

Crashworthiness cases allege that a vehicle manufacturer did not take precautions to reduce the injuries caused from a foreseeable crash. A vehicle is defective if it is designed or manufactured in such a way that the injuries are worse than the injuries expected in that type of crash.

What is an auto products liability case?

A product liability case arises when an item we use every day is unsafe. It could be defective in design, manufacture, or by failing to provide proper warnings. Vehicle defects can be as varied as the cars found on American roads, and a closer look into the facts of each case is always necessary.

Generally, vehicle defects revolve around three types of claims: (1) the design of the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous or defective; (2) the vehicle was defectively manufactured; or (3) the vehicle’s warnings or instructions were inadequate and led to injury.

Some of the more common vehicle defects involve: airbags; child seats; fuel systems; glass claims; occupant ejections; rollovers; roof crush; seat back failures; seatbelt defects; and tire failures.

How do you prove that a product is defective?

Products can be defective three main ways: First of all, a product may be defectively designed. In other words, the way in which the product was designed was not safe for its intended use. For example, a seat belt that does not properly lock during a rollover, or an air bag that does not properly deploy upon impact. Secondly, there may be a manufacturing defect. For example, a tire which does not have proper tread. Thirdly, a product may be defective due to inadequate or improper warnings. This type of claim is less common in auto products liability.

Crashworthiness requires protection from the forces created in an impact. Safe designs dissipate forces from a crash over time and distance, away from vulnerable body parts, such as the brain and spine. There are well-established processes that vehicle manufacturers should be designing into their cars to ensure crashworthiness. Vehicle defects commonly result from a decision to maximize profits and sacrifice a design that would accomplish occupant protection.

How your car should protect you

  1. Minimize intrusion. The space in which the occupants sit should not be compromised by the structure of the vehicle intruding into the interior. Vehicles are designed to have crush zones and their front and rear to absorb the force of an impact. However, a significant crush should end at the point where the occupant space begins.
  2. Effective restraint system. A seatbelt should fit properly and engage promptly in order to restrain an occupant. Proper restraint is essential in a rollover to protect occupants from being ejected from a window or falling into the roof.
  3. Prevention of ejection. In addition to an effective restraint system, doors on vehicles should stay latched. In addition, side airbags and retentive glazing can also prevent ejection. Anyone ejected from a vehicle, especially at speed, is at a far higher risk of severe injury or being killed.
  4. Friendly interiors. To reduce impact, surfaces should be padded and the steering column should collapse. Airbag padding provides the friendliest of interiors.
  5. Fuel system integrity. A vehicle’s fuel system should prevent fires after impact. This is achieved through its location, fuel line routing, and secure connections, People should not survive the impact of a crash only to die in a vehicle fire.

Common defects

A non-exhaustive list of vehicle defects is listed below. If these occur in a car wreck and result in injury, it may to a products liability case.

Post-collision, fuel-fed fires

Vehicle manufacturers have a duty to design vehicles that will not cause a fire. The following defects can cause fuel leaks and fires after the collision:

  • Puncturing of fuel tanks
  • Compromised fuel lines
  • Electric pump shut-off failure in fuel-injected engines
  • Defective check valves or anti-siphoning devices which means that fuel siphons from the tank after impact

Air bags

Air bags should be fully inflated before an occupant makes contact with it. Airbags can travel up to 200mph when inflating. This means that serious injuries can occur when occupants hit an airbag before it is fully inflated. In addition, airbags may also deploy when not needed at low speeds. The safest-designed airbags have higher deployment thresholds, deploy less aggressively, and have improved tethers and sensors.


Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have a higher rollover rate than the average passenger car. People in a vehicle that has been properly tested for crashworthiness should not be severely injured in a rollover. If they are, here are some things to consider:

  • Roof crush
  • Seatbelt slack
  • Seatbelt unlatching
  • Lack of ejection protection

Seat belts

Seat belts are the single most important safety device in a vehicle when they work as they ought to. If a seat belt fails to work as it is designed to, it can cause serious injury and even death. If an occupant is wearing their seat belt but is killed or severely injured in a car crash, ask why.

Tire failure

A manufacturing or design defect means that a tire may fail long before the tread on the tire has worn out. The most common form of failure is tread separation. Certain tread designs are more likely to fail than others.

Seats/seat backs

Thousands of injuries occur each year in rear-impact collisions due to defective seat and component design. Seats are an occupant restraint. They should prevent an occupant from moving forward or backwards in a head-on or rear impact crash. In addition, seats should prevent the occupant from hitting the inside of the vehicle or being ejected. Seats and their components have been known to break during a collision, causing catastrophic injury such as paralysis.

Child safety seats and booster seats

Many child safety seats are not up to standard to protect children in crashes. As a result, hundreds of children suffer serious and often fatal injuries in car crashes every year. Many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if the product had been properly designed, manufactured, and installed.

Black Box technology

Often referred to as “black boxes” because of the black box recorders on airplanes, most newer vehicles have some type of crash data recorder. Sensors in the black box link to the airbags monitors the status of the vehicle immediately before and during a crash. The black box can record detailed information such as: whether seat belts were being worn; braking speed; the timing of when airbags were deployed; and even engine RPMs.

Screening car wreck cases for products liability may show that the vehicle actually had a defect. Work with an experienced personal injury lawyer like Jaime Jackson Law. We can identify specific characteristics of the crash that may mean that you have a crashworthiness case.

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