Regardless of what a manufacturer does; from design, assembly, or handling a car, you can make a strict liability claim based on a motor vehicle defect. You do not need to show carelessness — if all three of the following conditions exist:
- One of its components had an “unreasonably dangerous” defect that caused the injury. The defect can come from the design of the vehicle, during manufacturing, during handling or shipment, or through a failure to warn consumers of a dangerous aspect of the vehicle.
- The defect caused an injury while being used for its intended use. You may not be able to recover if a sports sedan is used as a snowplow.
- The vehicle has not been changed from its original condition in which it was originally sold. It must be substantially changed; meaning in a way that affects how the vehicle performs.
Defenses to Car Defect Claims
The vehicle manufacturer and/or the seller may have a defense to your strict liability claims, particularly if you have owned the vehicle for some time, if it can be shown that you knew about the defect but continued to use the vehicle anyway.
Punitive damage awards are above and beyond damages to compensate a plaintiff for his or her injuries, and can range into many millions of dollars. Punitive damages are intended to punish vehicle manufacturers and give them a reason to fix the defects in vehicle designs that have resulted in injury.
Manufacturers use a “cost-benefit” analysis when deciding to modify a potentially defective auto design. The manufacturer will calculate the cost of implementing a design change, and weigh that cost against the potential cost of litigation and settlement after the defect causes injuries. Punitive damages are often awarded in order to add to the potential costs a manufacturer will face if it decides not to fix a design defect, thus shifting the cost-benefit analysis toward the elimination of defects.