Theories of Liability in Defective Motor Vehicle Cases
Every year there are many car accidents due to a defective condition of the vehicle that was being driven. Such accidents can cause property loss, injury or even death. Many of these issues lead to recalls or even class actions suits against the manufacturer. There are three main theories of liability for vehicle defects, These are breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty and strict liability.
Breach of Express Warranty
One theory of liability for a defective motor vehicle case can be a breach of an express warranty. What this means is that if you buy a car that has an actual warranty on it, such as the manufacturer’s warranty in a new car, the vehicle manufacturer is responsible do to defects with the car that are due that would be covered under the warranty.
A good example of this is if you have a new car and there is a problem with the engine that causes it to set on fire under normal. Problems with the engine would obviously be covered by the manufacturers warranty that came with the car. If there is something wrong with the car, such as a problem with the fuel system which causes a fire, the manufacturer is in breach and can be responsible for problems that arose under the
Breach of Implied Warranty
A breach of an implied warranty means that there are certain things in the vehicle that should not cause a car accident, even if the vehicle is no longer under warranty. This theory means that a consumer can bring suit for a defect in the vehicle even years after the warranty ran out because the car manufacturer has the duty to make sure that certain parts of the car work when the car is used as normal, even years after the car has been made.
An example of implied warranty cases would be if there was a rollover problem with a particular vehicle, such as the Ford/Firestone cases. In those cases, the consumer was following manufacturer recommendations by filling the tires to a certain PSI. However, doing so created an unreasonable risk that the tires would blow out and due to such blow outs, the vehicle could roll over. Many people suffered damages due to these types of accidents. The result was a massive recall and class action lawsuit by people that suffered injuries due to the rollovers. There was evidence in the Ford cases that the manufacturer knew that overfilling the tires could possible cause an accident, which made the cases even more notable.
The most common type of liability for motor vehicle defects in most states in strict liability. What this means is that no matter what kind of car the manufacturer used when designing and making a car, they are responsible for defects to the car that create an unreasonable risk of harm to the driver, passengers or even other drivers on the road.
In order to meet a strict liability standard, three conditions must be met. The first is that there must be an unreasonable dangerous defect that caused the harm. The second is that the vehicle was being used as intended. The final thing that must be shown is that there was no substantial change from when the vehicle was produced.
A good example of this is the uncontrolled acceleration problem that caused a recall of some Toyota vehicles a few years back. There were a good number of accidents that were caused by an unexplained acceleration of these cars, some of which were out of the manufacturer’s warranty. Toyota ultimately had to have a recall to fix the affected part of the car that caused these accidents, but for the people that were injured before the recall, they would have a cause of action against Toyota because, even if a car may not be brand new, Toyota need to use car when designing the vehicle so that there would not be conditions that would cause an accident, such as the car accelerating for no reason. Even though it was initially unclear what the problem was and whether there was a design defect, Toyota was still responsible under a strict liability standard.