A surprising number of new vehicles sold in the United States have defects that can severely injure or kill, or cause accidents that hurt others. Vehicle manufacturers, repair facilities, and even car dealerships have a responsibility to inform owners of known defects. When problems with a vehicle you buy or have repaired are not disclosed and cause an accident, you can bring a claim of damages.
Proving a defective vehicle claim can be a difficult, time-consuming, and complex process. The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky have the knowledge and legal skills to go up against automobile corporations. If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective vehicle, or risk-free consultation is intended to provide an opportunity for our staff to let you know how we can proceed with your case.
Manufacturing Defects and Public Safety
Some of the biggest headline-grabbing vehicle defect cases are the result of cost-saving measures and an effort to avoid negative publicity. In recent years, the GM ignition switch defect, the Takata airbag defect, and defective floor mats in Toyota and Lexus vehicles highlight the ways that manufacturing companies can be held liable for improperly designed vehicles and components that kill, maim, and injure when it can be shown the company knew about the defect beforehand.
Proving that a company knew about a defect and did not correct the problem often requires a substantial amount of evidence. It can take years to obtain all of the documents needed to demonstrate the liability of the manufacturing company. The car company will fight to prevent taking responsibility, but our injury lawyers will persist and win your case.
What it Takes To Win
Safety defects in automobiles sold in the United States are handled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Consumers can register complaints about defective safety equipment or vehicle components that produce an unsafe situation with NHTSA. The agency investigates all claims of vehicle defects, recommends safety recalls, and enforces safety laws.
A complete and up-to-date list of all vehicle recalls is available to the public on the NHTSA website. You should have your vehicle identification number (VIN) available, as recalls are listed by VIN. Your VIN will be listed on your vehicle registration information. You can also find your VIN number on a small metal tag on the drivers side of the front windshield and on the drivers door vehicle identification tag.
Most vehicle defects are also covered under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law. The Lemon Law requires manufacturers and dealers to repair defects that substantially impact the value, use, or safety of a vehicle. The law covers all problems that happen in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles driven. Manufacturers are given three attempts to repair the problem, replace the vehicle, or purchase the vehicle from the consumer.
Questions about whether you have a lemon law claim should be directed to the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.
It is very difficult to prove a defective vehicle claim. In these cases, it is up to the plaintiff who brings suit to provide the evidence to prove a claim. Pennsylvania courts will apply a strict liability standard to vehicle defect cases. This means that rather than proving negligence -which requires demonstrating intent or carelessness- strict liability requires only that it be shown why the responsible party should have known or already knew about a problem and failed to warn or correct the issue.
Under Pennsylvania law, you are required to give the manufacturer an opportunity to repair the vehicle. If, after the vehicle has been seen three or more times for the same problem without resolution, the claimant may request a replacement vehicle, or may choose to sell the vehicle back to the manufacturer. The claimant will be charged $0.10 for every mile on the vehicle.
You will need to make sure you save every communication, bill, quote, and receipt. Take detailed notes each time you speak with a representative of the company, whether it is a sales person, service writer, or an administrator. These communications will be the beginning of where your injury attorney will begin to build a case.
Under the law, any parts that are removed and replaced must be made available to the consumer upon request. Ask for your broken parts back. It is not common for a shop to claim to have replaced a part, but did not, but in case it happens, you might be dealing with a serious problem and likely have a defective vehicle or negligence claim.
Types of Defects
Today’s cars are intricate, complex machines -and are without a doubt safer than cars of the past. Sometimes, a car is simply built in such a way that it presents an unnecessary risk. Other times, a component is defective, does not function correctly, or isn’t installed correctly. When a defective component causes injury, Pennsylvania law provides protections for consumers who are injured in car accidents because of defective vehicles.
Between 22005 and 2007, NHTSA conducted a unique study to look at the causes of accidents. Out of 2.2 million crashes, 44,000 were related to defective vehicles. Defective brakes and tires were the cause of about 50 percent of those collisions, but NHTSA pointed out that actual incidence of mechanical failure could be higher, since the study looked at only the factors that were readily available.
Some of the types of defects new cars can have include:
Glass and Windshield
Door locks and latches
Steering and suspension
Brakes, wheels, and tires
Airbags and safety features
Engine, transmission, and traction control
Some defects are less dangerous than others. Some of the most recent defective vehicle claims, though, have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. In 2014, General Motors settled a defective vehicle claim that originated ten years earlier. Ignition switches used in GM vehicles could unintentionally switch off while the car was in motion, causing a loss of control. If that vehicle was struck by another car, the airbags would not inflate, putting passengers at an unnecessary risk of harm. In total, 124 people died from defective ignition switches before GM acknowledged the problem and recalled 30 million vehicles worldwide.
Beginning in 2001, vehicle owners started to report problems with air bags to NHTSA. In some cases, the air bag would inflate unintentionally, would only partially inflate, or would explode sending shrapnel hurtling about the interior of the car. By 2019, a total of 41.6 million cars and more than 52 million airbags have been recalled. So massive was the recall, the manufacturer Takata was forced out of business. Additional problems with other airbags have resulted in the recall of up to 70 million cars and trucks. Defective airbags have killed 16 people and injured more than 250.
Floor mats installed in certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles between 2007-2010 could trap the accelerator pedal, causing unwanted acceleration and the inability to stop the car. A total of 89 deaths were reported.
In all three of these cases, the manufacturer was aware of the problem with the vehicle well before reports began to grow numerous, but chose to avoid solving the problem.
What to Do if You Think Your Defective Vehicle Caused Injuries
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky want you to call as soon as possible if you believe a defect caused your accident and injury. It is imperative that we begin collecting evidence as soon as possible. Frequently, drivers injured in accidents when a defective component fails do not have an opportunity to inspect the vehicle before it is disposed of. This raises the possibility of collecting evidence and may jeopardize any potential legal recourse.
Our staff and attorneys will meet with you to discuss the facts of your case. Our consultation is risk-free, so you do not need to worry about spending money to find out you don’t have a case. We will discuss with you our experience and expertise at winning defective vehicle cases that involve injury. We have decades of experience winning these cases and know the best way to make sure that you and your loved ones are protected. We will make sure you get the medical, financial, and long-term benefits you will need to recover, and we will hold responsible manufacturers accountable.