Given the number of cars and other motor vehicles on our nation’s roads and highways on any given day, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics indicating that motor-vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injuries and deaths in the United States are not surprising. A large percentage of these accidents are caused by unsafe and negligent driving, while a great many others may result from defects in cars and other motor vehicles. In these cases, negligent drivers and defective-car manufacturers may be held accountable for damages suffered by injured victims and deceased victims’ families through negligence or products-liability personal-injury and wrongful-death actions.
If you have been injured or one of your family members has died in a car or other vehicle accident and you have reason to suspect that the accident and/or injuries were caused by someone’s negligence or by a defect in a car or motor-vehicle safety equipment, you may be entitled to compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm’s San Francisco, California, auto- and car-accident lawyers have extensive experience with car-crash cases of every variety, including those arising out of accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers, otherwise careless drivers, or defective cars, seatbelts, airbags, and other safety equipment. Contact The Killino Firm’s car-accident attorneys at 415-278-9278 for a cost-free evaluation of your case and additional information about your legal rights and options.
Legal Liability for Car or Auto Accident Injuries and Deaths
Negligent and careless drivers regularly cause preventable injuries and deaths. Negligence may be defined as the failure to exercise the reasonable care owed to another to protect that person’s safety and health. Under state negligence laws, a driver owes a duty to take reasonable care to protect the safety of the driver’s own passengers, the occupants of other vehicles, and pedestrians at all times while the driver is operating any type of motor vehicle. The breach of this duty toward another through careless or negligent driving may lead to a driver’s liability in a negligence action for an accident victim’s injury or wrongful death.
Drivers may be found to have negligently caused car-accident injuries and deaths in a number of ways, including through violations of traffic laws and rules of the road. A driver’s violation of an applicable law or road rule may be found to constitute negligence per se and lead to the driver’s liability for injuries or deaths shown to have been caused by the rule or law violation. A driver who operated a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit, violated a speed limit, disobeyed a traffic signal, changed lanes without signaling, or used a shoulder to pass another vehicle, for example, may be found liable for an accident victim’s injury or death determined to have resulted from the driver’s traffic violation. Persons who were texting or talking on cell phones, eating or drinking, changing radio stations, or adjusting GPS while driving may also be held liable for injuries or deaths sustained in accidents found to have been caused or contributed to by this or similar negligent behavior.
Defective cars and vehicle safety equipment may also cause car crashes or increase injuries sustained in car crashes. When accidents and resulting injuries and deaths are ruled to have been caused by such defects, the manufacturers and others involved in the production and distribution of the defective vehicles may be held legally responsible for accident victims’ injuries and deaths through products-liability personal-injury or wrongful-death actions.
Products-liability actions are generally brought as strict-liability actions, as these actions relieve plaintiffs of the necessity of proving that products-liability defendants were negligent in designing, manufacturing, or otherwise engaging in the process of producing defective vehicles and releasing them to the marketplace. Because consumers must rely on auto manufacturers and designers to produce and sell vehicles without defects that pose unreasonable hazards to consumers’ safety—and because manufacturers are able to absorb the costs associated with lawsuits seeking recovery for injuries and deaths caused by defective vehicles by spreading these costs among consumers—this liability without proof of negligence is justified in products-liability law as a means of compensating consumers for injuries and deaths caused by defective vehicles produced and marketed by these companies. Thus, the designers, manufacturers, suppliers, assemblers, wholesalers, and in some states, the retailers of defective vehicles may be held strictly liable for injuries and deaths found to have been caused by certain types of defects.
Not all “defects” or deficiencies in cars or other products will lead to such liability. The products-liability law applicable in most state personal-injury and wrongful-death actions is summarized or “restated” in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Section 402A. Under this generally applicable law, manufacturers and others involved in the production and distribution of defective cars or other products may be found strictly liable for injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by defects in the design, manufacture, or warnings of products that rendered those products unreasonably dangerous for their intended or reasonably expected uses. In addition, these defects must have existed at the time the products were sold as well as at the time consumers’ injury- or death-causing accidents occurred. A car with faulty brakes, for example, may be found to contain a defect causal of an accident victim’s injury or death if the car’s brake failure is determined to have been a cause of the injury-causing accident. Malfunctioning electrical systems, faulty steering mechanisms, fuel-system failures, and defective tires provide additional examples of vehicle defects that commonly cause traffic-accidents and resultant injuries and deaths.
Certain types of defects, commonly known as “crashworthiness” defects, may enhance injuries sustained in accidents due to other causes. The injuries sustained by vehicle occupants in accidents caused by driver negligence, for example, may be enhanced (or increased beyond what they might have been) by airbag or roof defects that result in insufficient crash protection. In such cases, the manufacturers and others involved in the production and distribution of the vehicles as well as the defective vehicle parts may be found strictly liable for accident victims’ injuries determined to have been enhanced by such crashworthiness defects.
If you have been injured or one of your family members has died due to a car- or auto-accident caused by driver negligence, a defective car or other motor vehicle, or defective motor-vehicle safety equipment, The Killino Firm’s San Francisco car-crash lawyers are ready to fight for the justice you deserve from all those responsible for your injuries or loved one’s death. Contact The Killino Firm at 415-278-9278 for compassionate yet aggressive assistance with your car-accident case.