There are many ways a vehicle occupant can get injured in a car. Following an accident, the doors of a vehicle are supposed to protect the occupants from getting out of the car and causing further injury. If door latches are not working well, they often fly open following an impact. This, as a result, will lead to occupants being ejected from the vehicle and causing them to get more significant injuries. When one buys a car, they trust that the auto engineers were careful enough to ensure that every component in the vehicle works well. When these components are poorly designed or defective, they can fail when they are needed most to function.
During an investigation into the cause of an accident, the cause of injuries suffered is also taken into account. Fortunately, a victim can get compensated for the injuries. Speaking to the lawyers at The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm in California will help you know how to pursue compensation for the damages suffered.
Different Kinds of Door Defects and Failures
Various car defects can cause a car door to malfunction. Some of these defects include:
- Latches and locks – These features are designed to keep the car doors tight when closed and allow THE opening of the door when the occupants pull the handle. Defects on the latches or locks include locks or latches that are jammed, failing to stay locked or connected as well as failure to disengage.
- Remote rods – A door handle is connected to its latch through a remote rod. Rod defects include twisted, broken, or distorted rods. These malfunctions can prevent a vehicle occupant from opening or closing a car door.
- Door handles – A vehicle occupant uses the handle of the door to control its position. When a door handle is defective, it can be broken or may malfunction. This will cause the vehicle occupants not to be able to take control over the car’s door.
- Door hatch or structure – For a door to function correctly, there are internal mechanisms that allow for that. The hatch and structure are responsible for protecting these mechanisms. If the hatch or structure of the door is poorly designed or weak, it is likely the other components such as locks, latches, or remote rods will get spoiled.
Vehicle door problems can prevent passengers or occupants from having the ability to take charge of the functionality or position of the door. When this happens, various situations can result that can be risky to the occupants. These may include:
- The vehicle doors opening while the car is in motion or when the vehicle crashes
- The occupants of the vehicle can be trapped and requiring specialized tools to get them out
- The occupants can be ejected from the moving vehicles or upon a collision. This, in most cases, results in fatalities
Causes of Car Door Defects
The various defects of car doors can be as a result of multiple factors. Some of these may include:
- Inadequate or improper door design
- The use of substandard materials in the manufacturing of doors
- Using shortcuts to make the doors or making various manufacturing mistakes
- Failure in the testing of the door’s safety
- The failure to give proper instructions on the correct use of the doors and the risk when they are misused
When these factors cause the defects in car doors, various entities can be found liable for the injuries suffered as a result. These are:
- The manufacturers of the vehicles
- The engineers for the vehicle
- The manufacturers of the various equipment
- Companies or consultants for the vehicle’s safety
- Auto mechanics, if in their servicing or repairing of the car, they tempered with the door
Common Injuries Due to a Defective Car Door Latch
Earlier, we discussed the various dangers that can result from a faulty or defective car door latch. There are also multiple injuries a person can suffer from because of a faulty door latch. These may include:
- Road abrasions from the skin crashing on the hard road surface
- Broken bones as a result of the impact with the road
- Head injuries are prevalent because car occupants do not wear protective gear over their head
- Spinal cord and brain injuries that often lead to paralysis
- Lost limbs and disfigurement
Despite the implementation of the Federal Vehicle Safety Standards 206, accidents as a result of malfunctioning door latches continue to increase. The standards required for vehicles to be tested for crashworthiness of door latches. The standards were established in the 1970s, and there have been numerous revisions to the rules.
The regulations state that a door must be able to support an inertial weight 30 times the force of gravity when an impact occurs.
Victims that suffer injuries due to malfunctioning door latches can seek compensation for the damages and injuries sustained. These claims can be sought through the liability laws for automotive products. According to the law, when the malfunctioning of a door latch is hazardous, it can result in injuries to a person. The victim can be awarded compensation for the injuries or damages.
Cases that involve malfunctioning door latches get evaluated according to the strict liability law. According to the law, a defect of the door latch may be as a result of:
- Flaws in design
- Mistakes in the manufacturing
- Insufficient information to the customers
- Inadequate guidelines for using them
The defect or failure of the door latch may be:
- When the latch refuses to wholly close or shut the door
- When the door latch system is outdated
When accidents happen, and malfunctioning door latches are involved, the victims are permitted to receive punitive and compensatory damages. In compensatory damages, a victim can receive both economic and non-economic rewards. Some of the losses a victim will receive include:
- Medical costs – When a person is injured in an accident, treatment is a cost to be incurred. When an accident involving malfunctioning door latches occurs, the victim is entitled to be compensated for all their medical costs. These expenses include charges to the ER, any medical procedures, and equipment used as well as the medicine given.
- Lost income – Following an accident, a victim may take a few days from work to recover or according to the doctor’s recommendations. The days the victim will miss work means they will also lose out on their income. This makes it necessary to be compensated for the income they will miss the days they will be undergoing treatment.
- Lost capacity to earn – Some injuries can be very substantial that the victim may never be able to make a living again. Injuries that may result in paralysis, for instance, or traumatic brain trauma, may result in the victim being unable to work again. A calculation is then done to determine how much the victim would have earned if he or she did not suffer the injuries. The victim will then be compensated for their inability to earn a living again.
- Lost limbs and disfigurement – A person can lose their hands or a leg as a result of the injuries. This may require the victim to be fitted with a prosthetic limb. As a result, compensation must be made to reward the victim of their lost body parts. A victim can also suffer from the disfigurement of their faces and loss of teeth. This may require the victim to undergo reconstructive surgery as well as dental surgery. The costs for all these procedures are also compensated for the damages.
- Wrongful death – When the door flies open, a victim can be thrown out of the car, and upon impact with the hard road surface, he or she may die. The family of the victim can seek compensation for their untimely death
- Suffering and pain – Injuries can result in a victim suffering significant pain from the wounds inflicted. Although the suffering and hurt a person undergoes cannot be quantified, the magnitude of the injuries can determine the compensation awarded to a victim.
- Burial and funeral expenses – If a victim dies as a result of the accident, the surviving family can seek compensation for the cost of burying their loved one.
How much a person gets compensated depends on how significant the injuries suffered are. Punitive damages can also be awarded to the victim. The damages are aimed at punishing the responsible party as well as deter others from engaging in activities similar to those of the at-fault party.
How to Prove Fault in a Case involving Product Liability
Injuries sustained from malfunctioning products are easily compensated compared to injuries from other sources. This is made possible by the particular theories and rules of recovery developed with regard to product liability law.
A victim can seek compensation from a manufacturer or seller through one of these three theories: negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. The theory of strict liability is considered to prove who is at fault in product liability.
Defining Strict Liability
Under ordinary circumstances, to hold a party accountable for the damages you suffer, you will need to demonstrate their carelessness. You must show their negligence and how their carelessness or recklessness resulted in the injuries you sustained. Unfortunately, it may be difficult and expensive for a person to demonstrate how a manufacturer was negligent while making a specific item.
It is also unrealistic to expect a consumer of the item to show that the seller of the item had an ideal system that checks on product defects as it leaves the manufacturer. Equally, a consumer cannot be expected to prove the seller was responsible for the defect in the item after the manufacturer handed it over to them. A buyer or consumer is not able to also check on each product prior to using it and determine if it is dangerous or malfunctioning.
Because of these and other reasons, the doctrine or theory of strict liability was developed in the law. This theory allows for a victim of a dangerous or malfunctioning product to recover damages. The victim is not required to prove the negligence of either the distributor or manufacturer to get compensated.
When a person has sustained injuries due to a product, they have a right to compensation. The manufacturer or distributor of the item is held accountable and should compensate the victim. According to the doctrine of strict liability, a non-manufacturer of a product can be held responsible for the defects of the item if they are regular sellers of the said item. For instance, manufacturers often have appointed distributors of their products. Because the distributors regularly sell the products from that particular manufacturer, they can be held responsible for injuries that would be sustained because of the product malfunction.
How to Prove Fault Based on Strict Liability
Irrespective of the measures taken by manufacturers or their distributors in the handling and making of items meant for public consumption, it doesn’t require determination of negligence to prove fault. However, certain conditions must exist in product liability. These are:
- The item had an unreasonably dangerous defect. This defect in the product was responsible for the injuries as a consumer one suffers. The defect of the product may be due to its design, during its manufacture, shipment, or handling.
- As the product was being used correctly, the defect in the product was responsible for the consumer’s injuries
- The item had received no substantial change from its original condition. A considerable change usually affects how a product will function.
Showing the Vehicle Manufacturer is at Fault
Typically, the public expects that a vehicle manufacturer designs and makes the cars safely. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Vehicles are sometimes released to the market by the manufacturer before following all the procedures in product testing. The testing is essential to ensure that the design of the car is ideal and safe, and the components will not fail at any given time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that some accidents on our roads are due to defects from motor vehicles. These defects have been reported to be responsible for significant injuries and fatalities when crashes happen. If a manufacturer is responsible for selling a car with a defective design or it is unsafe, the manufacturer will then be held accountable for the injuries a victim suffers.
The Safety Obligations of Auto Manufacturers
As a vehicle comes out of the assembly line, it is expected to be highly safe to use. When vehicles are well designed and manufactured, they will be crashworthy when an accident happens. The components used in the car, such as car doors, must be developed safely and ensure that the mechanism works as it is supposed to.
Sometimes a manufacturer may take shortcuts in designing and testing a car. They want to maximize their profits by getting the car into the market faster than they should. In the process, some parts of the vehicle are released when they are defective or malfunctioning. The NHTSA expects auto manufacturers to report any defects found in a car to them in five days after discovery. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers do, and those that might do not always say. If defects are realized, manufacturers will delay or slowly react to errors. To recall vehicles already or parts that are already in the market is expensive and complicated. Sometimes, by the time a car or a part is recalled back, several accidents may have already happened.
Over the years, vehicle manufacturers have paid fines amounting to millions of dollars because of withholding information about some defects. NHTSA, through its investigations, can order a manufacturer to recall vehicles back. The court can also order the same following a lawsuit.
Aside from informing the NHTSA of any defects discovered, a manufacturer is expected to notify the owners of the vehicles, the equipment owners, distributors, or dealers. The manufacturer is also expected to bear the cost of fixing the problem.
Knowledge of the Malfunction as a Defense of the Manufacturers and Distributors
When the doctrine of strict liability is applied, the sellers and manufacturers of a product have a defense against the claims presented. If, as a consumer, you had the product for some time, and you were aware of its defects yet continued to use it, you may not have a claim.
The manufacturer must prove that you had prior knowledge that the door latch was defective before the accident occurred. The insurance company representing the manufacturer will investigate this theory in order not to compensate you. How would you describe the product and how you used it may also deny you the right to seek compensation for the injuries sustained.
Filing an Injury Claim against a Vehicle Manufacturer
When an accident occurs, and a defective car door latch enhances the injuries as earlier discussed, you may have a claim on product liability. The first thing you need to do is to hire a lawyer that specializes in personal injury. Your lawyer will evaluate to see the validity of your case and is also familiar with the requirements needed to win your claim.
Insurance companies will not readily pay your claim. They must ensure their clients are not asked to pay claims needlessly and suffer losses. When your lawyer engages in discussions with the manufacturer’s insurance providers, they may reach an agreement or disagree on the compensation. If the insurance company or the manufacturer declines from paying you what you deserve, your lawyer can institute a lawsuit against them on your behalf.
According to the law on product liability, you must prove various elements to succeed in your claim. These elements are:
- You sustained injuries and suffered damages
- That your car door latch is defective
- Because of the defect, you were injured
- You were using the door to the car as it is expected
When an accident occurs, many different things happen, and a lot goes wrong. When the latch of your car door malfunctions, sometimes upon an impact, it may fly open. Ideally, the door should remain shut and protect the vehicle occupants from sustaining further injuries. When the door opens when it is not supposed to, you may find yourself thrown out of the car and suffer more injuries. A police report is necessary for showing this or explaining how you sustained the enhanced injuries. Photos from the accident scene are also essential to show what happened.
Sometimes the door can fly open even when there is no impact. A photo of the same can be taken to show the manufacturer. In case of any damages to the vehicle, this must also be well documented and presented.
Statements from a witness to the accident are also vital in showing what happened. These statements can be used in court as well as during the negotiations with the manufacturer’s insurer.
If your vehicle had any warranties, warnings, or instructions, they are essential when seeking claims for damages and injuries. Your lawyer is well skilled to know how to look for other victims that may have suffered due to a defective car door latches. If these victims can be found, your claim will gain more authority.
In seeking claims, a figure is not just arrived at. You must present the medical report from your doctor. Every treatment and costs associated must be included with your claim. Your doctor must give a detailed description of your injuries and the procedures used to treat them, if any, and how long the treatment must go on.
If any specialized treatment is required, the cost for it must be included as well. The prescription and cost of drugs are part of the documents necessary when seeking claims.
When your car is damaged as a result of the defective door latch, you need to get the invoice from your auto dealer indicating the repairs required and the approximate costs.
Always ensure that the claims and the documents are valid because the insurance adjuster will scrutinize them and check on their authenticity.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Accidents can be devastating under normal circumstances. However, some situations can lead to the enhancement of injuries a victim would suffer. When a car door latch is defective, a lot of things can happen that may result in damages to the vehicle, and in case of an accident, the injuries could be enhanced. One of the functions of a door is to protect the occupants from external factors that can increase damages. When you are involved in an accident, a faulty door latch can fly open and fail in its function to protect you.
The state of California allows victims of defective products to seek compensation for the damages suffered. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm in California, we are a team of experienced lawyers in getting our clients their fair compensation. Call us at 619-625-8707, and let us pursue your claim for you.