Earlier last year the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that over 53 million vehicles were recalled by manufacturers in the year 2016. This represents a seven percent increase over the previous “all-time high” reported in 2015. These numbers make it clear that vehicle defects are commonplace. However, what rights do the purchasers and drivers of these vehicles have against a manufacturer who sold an unsafe automobile? In most cases, the person injured by an unsafe vehicle will seek compensation for their injuries through the personal injury theory of product liability.
Strict Liability as the Basis for Car Defect Claims
One way vehicle defect cases differ from a regular car accident claim is that they are based on strict liability. This legal theory holds manufacturers liable regardless of whether they were at fault in creating the dangerous product. This concept is sometimes referred to as “absolute liability.” This differs greatly from a negligence claim where the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant was at fault.
In a strict liability case the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer has to prove three main facts. First, it must be shown that the car or truck has an unreasonable defect or design. Under the Utah Code Section 78-15-6(2) an “unreasonable danger” is defined as:
a product [that] was dangerous to an extent beyond which would be contemplated by the ordinary and prudent buyer, consumer or user of that product in that community considering the product’s characteristics, propensities, risks, dangers 0 and uses together with any actual knowledge, training, or experience possessed by that particular buyer, user or consumer.
Next, the plaintiff must show that the defect caused an injury during the intended or foreseeable use of the vehicle. Finally, there must be proof that the vehicle was in the same or substantially same condition as when it left the manufacturer.
One of the main defenses to this type of case is that the vehicle was in an altered condition at the time of the injury. Some defendants may also assert that the driver used the vehicle in an unintended manner, i.e. off-roading. In some jurisdictions the defense may also use comparative fault or contributory negligence to reduce or eliminate an award. Utah recognizes two affirmative defenses. The first is the misuse argument and the second is the unreasonable use of the product after having knowledge of the defect.
If you have suffered an injury from a defective vehicle it is important to work with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Utah Code Section 78-15-3 requires that a claim be filed within two years of the plaintiff’s injury and the discovery of its cause. Time is of the essence! If you need help with a personal injury matter contact Rex B Bushman at (801) 652-9413.