Getting into a car accident is always an aggravating experience. You can feel denial, shock, anger, frustration, and finally, acceptance. But, even if you handle the situation with a zen attitude, you want whoever caused the accident to be held liable for it. After all, car repairs can get expensive, really fast. So, what happens if the accident was caused by mechanical failure?
Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Mechanical Failure
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that was the result of mechanical failure, you’re dealing with a cause of action for negligence. To prevail in such a lawsuit, you’ll have to prove four elements:
- Duty of care
- Breach of that duty
- Causation – meaning that the breach of duty was what caused the accident
- Damages – medical bills, car repair costs, lost wages, car rental, loss of future earnings, or loss of consortium
There are several people who owe you a duty of care in relation to your car and whose breach can result in an accident. These include:
1. The Car Manufacturer
Before introducing their product into the chain of commerce, they have a duty to ensure that all parts and functions are working properly. As a motor vehicle manufacturer, they are held to a higher standard than the average person. In case of an accident caused by faulty manufacturing, a judge will want to know if the methods used by the manufacturer were standard practice within the automotive industry. This can be established by expert testimony as well as business records.
2. Your Mechanic
The reason you take your car to the mechanic is for regular maintenance as well as to inspect any suspected issues. Let’s say you go to the auto shop to rotate your tires. Since the purpose of the visit relates to the tires, your mechanic has the duty to notice whether they look overworn, there’s a nail stuck to one, or if there are any additional issues that may require prompt attention. If your mechanic fails to notice such issues, and your old tires cause an accident, your mechanic could be held liable for the accident.
You also have a duty to take care of your car – for your own safety, as well as for the safety of other motorists. If you had reason to believe your car had any mechanical issues, and you kept putting a visit to the mechanic on the back burner, you may be found liable for damages caused by your car in an accident. This could be actual notice – which means you absolutely knew there was an issue with your car, due to a warning by a mechanic, a recall notice, or you had noticed in the past issues such as brakes or turn signals that weren’t working properly. It could also be constructive notice — this means that you should have known there was a problem with your car. Examples include the check engine light being on, unusual sounds, or your car often experiences mechanical failures yet you kept driving it anyway.
What if more than one person was at fault?
Something else that’s important to keep in mind is that not all accidents are clear cut. Sometimes, there’s more than one culprit. For example, if your mechanic failed to fix your brakes properly and the person you hit ran a red light, both your mechanic and the other motorist would be partly responsible for the accident. In such cases, a judge would apply the comparative negligence standard that’s used in Florida courts. This means that fault will be apportioned among the parties. If it was 50% your mechanic’s fault and 50% the other motorist’s fault, the other motorist could only collect for half of his damages.
How can you prove liability?
The attorneys involved in the case will attempt to establish liability through a process called discovery. During this process, lawyers will request production of documents and records — such as documents from the manufacturer or from your mechanic —, by taking the sworn testimony of anyone involved in the accident, any mechanic who worked on the faulty car, and anyone from the vehicle’s manufacturer. Attorneys could also request surveillance footage from street lights or businesses around the location of the accident.
If anyone sustained medical injuries, the lawyers to the parties could also request to see medical records, as well as take the sworn testimony of medical providers who have been providing treatment to people involved in the accident. In addition, the attorneys may want to speak with medical or accident reconstruction experts.
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Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.