Airbag Failure and Defects
On average, motor vehicle crashes send more than 2 million drivers and passengers to the emergency room every year, claiming the lives of more than 30,000 Americans. Human factors contribute to a large share of these accidents, but unfortunately, defective cars and car parts also play a major role in car accident deaths.
Defective airbags are a scary and all-too-common occurrence on our roads. Car accidents often result in serious injuries or even death, and if the airbag fails to deploy (or deploys unnecessarily), these injuries could be even worse. These product defects can have a number of causes, whether it comes down to shoddy testing, cost-cutting manufacturing processes, or just negligence on the part of the automaker.
If you or a loved one has been by a defective airbag, call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation. With more than 80 years’ worth of combined trial experience, we are prepared to investigate your claim and fight to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.
Products Liability Law
Unsafe products cause more than $1 trillion in injuries, deaths, and property damage every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And unfortunately, many product-related injuries are the result of cost-cutting at the manufacturing level.
Unsafe products fall under product liability law, which holds the manufacturer, distributor, or seller liable for putting a defective product on the market. The supply chain for a particular product can be complex, and it can open liability up to the product manufacturer, a manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, and the retail store that sold the unsafe product.
Generally speaking, a product must meet the ordinary expectations of a reasonable consumer. That being said, when any product has an unexpected defect or danger, it has failed to meet the ordinary expectations of a consumer. When that unexpected defect or danger leads to injury, you could have grounds for a product liability lawsuit.
Winning a products liability case requires proving that the product in question—in this case, the airbag—was defective and that the defect made the car itself unreasonable dangerous. There are three common types of defects that can open a manufacturer or supplier up to liability:
- Design defects are flaws in the intentional design of a product. In order to prove the product was designed defectively, the plaintiff must be able to show that the product is inherently flawed; therefore, even if the consumer used the product as instructed, it would still be dangerous. Claiming a design defect sometimes requires that the plaintiff show negligence in the defective design, but in other cases, a manufacturer can be held liable if the plaintiff can show there was a safe, cost-effective alternative.
- Manufacturing defects occur when a product does not meet the designer’s or manufacturer’s specifications for the product. In these cases, a manufacturer failed to properly assemble the product according to the design, resulting in an unsafe final product. These types of unsafe product claims are often the easiest to prove, as the manufacturer’s internal design standards can show that the product was defective. When dealing with manufacturing defects, there are two legal principles in play. Res ipsa loquitor—meaning “the thing speaks for itself” in Latin—means that the defect would not exist unless someone in the manufacturing process had been negligent. In cases when this principle applies, the plaintiff is not required to prove the defendant was negligent. Instead, the defendant must prove it was not negligent. In other manufacturing defect cases, strict liability helps plaintiffs collect damages. In these cases, the plaintiff must only prove that the product was defective (and is not required to prove that the manufacturer was negligent).
- Marketing defects, otherwise known as failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions, occur when a product is improperly labeled. If the product does not come with sufficient instructions or it fails to warn consumers of hidden hazards, the company could be found liable for injuries. In addition, intentional misrepresentation of a product can qualify for product liability in certain cases.
One of the most difficult parts of a product liability claim is figuring out who the potential defendants are for your case. Any participant in the chain of distribution for your vehicle could have had a hand in producing the defective final product, and as such, it is important to identify all possible sources of liability. Possible defendants in a defective vehicle claim include the manufacturer, the manufacturer of the defective part itself, the car dealership or used car dealer, the automotive supply shop, or even the shipper of the defective products.
Compensation in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Once you have established grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, you and your attorney can start to evaluate “damages.” Damages, or the monetary compensation in a personal injury case, are divided into two categories: compensatory and punitive damages. The vast majority of personal injury cases deal with compensatory damages, which are designed to compensate the injured person for losses suffered as a result of the accident.
Compensatory damages in an accident could include:
- Current and future medical treatment: includes hospitalization costs, ongoing treatment expenses, rehabilitation costs, and any expected future medical expenses
- Lost wages: compensation for wages lost while out of work due to the accident, as well as decreased earning capacity in the future if the injuries will continue to affect the victim
- Property damage: compensation for damage to the victim’s car, clothing, or other personal effects as a result of the accident
- Loss of enjoyment of life: covers loss of enjoyment of day-to-day activities, recreation, hobbies, and exercise
- Pain and suffering: the physical and emotional pain caused by the accident, including the pain of the physical injuries and ongoing emotional trauma
- Emotional distress: the psychological effects of an injury, such as anxiety, sleep loss, or fear (typically awarded in severe accidents)
- Wrongful death: compensation for the family or estate of someone killed by a negligent driver
In certain cases, you can also pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to “punish” the defendant for particularly egregious or intentional behavior, and they are reserved for certain cases of gross misconduct.
Oftentimes, a defective vehicle claim will apply to a large number of consumers. If so, the people affected typically join together to file a class-action lawsuit. Joining an existing class-action lawsuit has several benefits for you, including the help of a lawyer who is already familiar with the case (and probably has years’ worth of experience filing claims against large corporations) and little to no upfront cost.
However, it is wise to consult a personal injury attorney before joining a class-action suit. In certain situations, it will make more sense to file your own lawsuit rather than joining the class-action suit. For example, if your injuries are substantially different from the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit (or if the circumstances of your accident were substantially different), then you will probably have more success filing your own lawsuit.
Contact a Defective Airbag Lawyer
Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have a proven track record of fighting for clients, both in and out of court. Our trial attorneys have achieved numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements, and our legal team has more than 30 years of experience standing up to large corporations and insurance adjusters alike. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi will ensure that your case is rock-solid and trial-ready, giving you the best chance of success.
You deserve aggressive and effective representation in your fight against negligent manufacturers. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to defective airbags, call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.