Austin Auto Defect Lawyers
When consumers purchase and drive a motor vehicle, they assume it will keep them and their families safe. Unfortunately, due to poor designs, poor manufacturing, or carelessness on a corporation’s part, certain vehicles may result in serious injuries or death.
How do I know I have an auto defect case?
In Texas the minimum policy limits are $30,000.00 for bodily injury or death per individual and $60,000.00 per accident. While Texas requires a limit of liability to operate a motor vehicle in the state, unfortunately, this is not enough compensation if someone is seriously injured, paralyzed or killed in an auto accident. One circumstance to determine if you have an auto defect case is to not just look to the at-fault driver but to look at what went on in the vehicle during the collision. Not only may you find an auto defect, such as a design defect, marketing defect, or manufacturing defect, but you have found another source of compensation for your client.
What should I do first when I realize I have an auto defect case?
The first thing you must do is to save the vehicle. Make sure the vehicle is protected and stored in conditions that will not alter the vehicle. This is your main piece of evidence.
The second thing you must do is find a law firm that has actually litigated auto defect cases. Wenholz | Dow has successfully litigated cases against the country’s largest auto manufacturers. You need a law firm that knows what experts to get, what documents to ask for and knows how to prepare an auto defect case for trial. Wenholz | Dow does not prepare your auto defect case for a settlement, we prepare it for trial. By doing this, Wenholz | Dow maximizes the value of your case should it settle.
What experts do I need?
The Wenholz | Dow has the resources to provide your auto defect case with world-class experts to take on the largest auto manufacturers. The majority of all auto defect cases require the following:
A Defect Expert: This is typically a professional engineer. Depending on the type of design defect or marketing defect you have will depend on the expert you need. If it is a seat belt failure—an expert on how seat belts should perform in an automobile. If it is a rollover accident—you will need an expert on the stability of a motor vehicle. Regardless, your design defect expert typically analyzes automotive destructive and non-destructive tests and evaluates automotive safety devices, automotive structural components, and crashworthiness systems.
Biomechanics Expert: These are experts who specialize in causation of the injuries—all aspects of the mechanism of injury to the occupants in a vehicle, biomechanics, and occupant kinematics. In essence, this is an expert who testifies on how bodies move in a vehicle when it is in an accident.
Accident Reconstructionist: This is an expert who will study how an accident took place, such as the speed of the vehicle or how many times the vehicle rolled. An accident reconstructionist’s opinions are typically relied on by all other experts in the case. Wenholz | Dow has tried cases with some of the most well-known accident reconstructionists in the country.
Economist: In cases in which there is a decedent, an economist takes facts regarding the family, sometimes utilizes the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics and puts a number on how much someone would have likely earned, had they lived. In other cases, someone may not be deceased, but they may be disabled, preventing them from working for the rest of their lives. An economist will be able to place a number relating to this person’s lost earning capacity. In either situation, an economist will be necessary to tell the jury the value of daily activities that may at first seem impossible to compensate.
Forensic Pathologist: In the most unfortunate of circumstances, in an auto defect case, a law firm will need to use a forensic pathologist who will determine how the auto defect caused the injuries and resulting death of a passenger.
What do I need to prove?
A “design defect” is a condition of the product that renders it unreasonably dangerous as designed, taking into consideration the utility of the product and the risk involved in its use. For a design defect to exist there must have been a safer alternative design. “Safer alternative design” means a product design other than the one actually used that in reasonable probability would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of the injury in question without substantially impairing the product’s utility and was economically and technologically feasible at the time the product left the control of the auto manufacturer by the application of existing or reasonably achievable scientific knowledge.
A “manufacturing defect” means that the product deviated in its construction or quality from its specifications or planned output in a manner that renders it unreasonably dangerous.
Marketing Defect—Defective Warnings or Instructions
A “defect in the warnings” means the failure to give adequate warnings of the product’s dangers that were known or by the application of reasonably developed human skill and foresight should have been known and which failure rendered the product unreasonably dangerous as marketed or a “defect in the instructions” means the failure to give adequate instructions to avoid the product’s dangers that were known or by the application of reasonably developed human skill and foresight should have been known and which failure rendered the product unreasonably dangerous as marketed. “Adequate” warnings given in a form that could reasonably be expected to catch the attention of a reasonably prudent person in the circumstances of the product’s use; and the content of the warnings must be comprehensible to the average user and must convey a fair indication of the nature and extent of the danger and how to avoid it to the mind of a reasonably prudent person.
Common defects in motor vehicles:
- Ford roof crush and rollovers
- Audi seatback failures causing paralysis or death
- Goodyear tire defects
- Tread on tires
- Honda and Acura seatback failures
- Lexus airbag failures
- Volkswagen emissions
- Defective component parts causing serious injury or death such as tires, seatbelts, and seatback failures.
- Manufacturing defects
- Design defects
- Failure to warn
- Roof crushing
- Post-crash fires/explosions
- Fuel tank fires
- Braking failures
- Seat belts
- Seat back failures
Automobile Roof Strength
Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, More than 10,000 people die each year in rollover crashes. These deaths can be prevented if the roof of the vehicle had been made stronger. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground and can deform and crush inward into the passenger compartment or “survival space”. The stronger the roof, the more survival space, and the safer passengers are in rollover accidents. Stronger roofs can prevent occupants from being ejected from vehicles when, and if the roof does deform in anyway during an accident.
The original Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216 required that a vehicle’s roof be able to withstand a force of 1.5 times the weight of the car. The rule was extended in the early 1990s to include all passenger vehicles up to a gross weight rating of 6,000 pounds. While this has since changed further by Standard 216a, many SUVs and pickups on the road today have not been recalled and are still under the old Federal Safety Standard and are exempt. This is a serious safety hazard in the United States.
Crashworthiness and Rollovers
Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety-Highway Loss Data Institute, a crashworthy design reduces death and injury risk. Structure and restraints (safety belts and airbags) are the main aspects of a vehicle’s design that determine its crashworthiness. Good structure means a strong occupant compartment or safety cage, crumple zones to absorb the force of a serious crash, side structure that can manage the force of a striking vehicle or struck object and a strong roof that won’t collapse in a rollover. Crash tests are used to evaluate a vehicle’s structural design and restraints. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a roof strength test for rollover protection, plus evaluations of seats/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. The federal government’s New Car Assessment Program also evaluates new vehicles for protection in front, side and rollover crashes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety-Highway Loss Data Institute states vehicles roll over in 1 percent of all crashes, but these crashes account for about a third of passenger vehicle occupant deaths. Electronic stability control makes a vehicle less likely to roll over. ESC helps prevent the sideways skidding and loss of control that can lead to rollovers. It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by more than 70 percent. As of the 2012 model year, all passenger vehicles must have the technology. Strong roofs protect occupants in a rollover crash. Stronger roofs reduce the risk of a fatal or incapacitating injury when a vehicle rolls over, in part because stronger roofs reduce the chance of being ejected from a rolling vehicle.