Car accidents are often scary and life-altering experiences for the people involved. For most of us, the number one priority after one occurs is ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved. This can include compensation for medical expenses and property damage.
Although many accidents are just that, accidents, there are other situations where a person can be liable for the injury or damage that occurs. When we think of legal liability for a car accident, the first thing many of us think of is liability for negligent or reckless driving. In some cases though, an accident can be the result of a mechanical failure that is potentially related to negligence.
If this does happen, it is common to ask about the legal liability for a mechanical failure on a vehicle and who is ultimately responsible for related injuries or damages.
Can You Be Held Liable? What the Law Says About Mechanical Failures
Liability under Florida law for motor vehicle accidents is complex. The short answer is yes, it is possible to be held liable for an accident caused by mechanical failures on a vehicle — but only under specific circumstances.
First, a mechanical failure needs to be established as the primary cause of the accident. Next, there needs to be proof that there was negligence on the part of either the manufacturer, a mechanic, or the owner of the vehicle that directly contributed to the accident.
Typically, this can be a very complicated situation and difficult to prove in a case. To help you better understand this topic, and how an experienced attorney can help you navigate it, we’re sharing this easy-to-understand guide.
Legal Liability for Accidents Caused by Mechanical Failures
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that was potentially the result of mechanical failure, there may be cause of action for negligence that could result in a lawsuit.
Proving negligence requires a clear demonstration of four elements:
- Establishing duty of care, or the legal obligation to do whatever is reasonably possible to prevent harming other people
- Proving a breach of that duty care
- Demonstrating causation, meaning that the breach of duty was what caused the accident
- Showing evidence of damages, including medical bills, car repair costs, lost wages, car rental, loss of future earnings, or loss of consortium
There are basically three potential parties who can potentially owe a duty of care in relation to a vehicle, and whose breach of duty can result in an accident.
1. The Car Manufacturer
Before introducing their product into the chain of commerce, car manufacturers have a duty to ensure that all parts and functions are working properly. Motor vehicle manufacturers 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 and business records.
2. The Mechanic
Car mechanics are responsible for regular maintenance and inspecting any suspected issues. For example, if you go to the auto shop to rotate your tires, the mechanic has a duty to inspect for specific safety issues such as excess wear or foreign objects. If the mechanic fails to notice these issues, and the tires are ruled to be the cause of an accident, the mechanic could be held liable for the accident.
3. The Vehicle Owner and Operator
Vehicle owners have a duty to take care of their car 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 where you absolutely knew there was an issue with your car due to a warning by a mechanic, or a recall notice. It could also be constructive notice where you should have known there was a problem with your car. Examples include the check engine light being on, unusual sounds, or unaddressed mechanical failures where you kept driving anyway.
What if more than one person was at fault?
It’s important to understand that not all accidents are clear cut. Sometimes, there’s more than one responsible party. 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 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 half of the damages.
How can you prove liability?
Attorneys involved in a case will attempt to establish liability through the discovery process. During this process, lawyers will request documents and records, such as documents from the manufacturer or from your mechanic. This can include 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.
Call Clark Law for a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer
The legal and insurance systems are highly complex, and so is proving or defending against liability in any automobile accident. The right attorney can help you ensure that your rights are being fully protected under the law and that you receive any compensation you are entitled to for medical expenses and property damage.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.