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When you’re driving in Ohio, you have a lot of things to worry about. Distracted drivers, dangerous road conditions, and inclement weather are just a few of the things you need to account for when you’re behind the wheel.
But there’s another risk factor for crashes that you might not think about while driving: poorly maintained vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road. Whether it’s worn brakes, bald tires, or burned-out headlights, vehicles with serious issues that can put their occupants and other drivers at risk of crashes are a common sight in our state.
So, what happens when a driver is following traffic laws but causes a crash because their vehicle is poorly maintained? Can they still be held liable for injuries and damages that occur?
In order to get compensation after a car accident, you need to prove that the other driver was negligent and that their actions (or inactions) caused the crash. Drivers who fail to adequately maintain their vehicles CAN be considered negligent, and that means they can be held liable for any damages they cause during a crash.
However, you must be able to prove that the other driver was aware of the issue and failed to follow-up on it. For example, it may be difficult to hold a driver liable if the brakes on their brand-new vehicle suddenly failed without warning (although that may mean you have a case against the vehicle manufacturer instead, as we discuss further down). However, you may be able to hold the driver liable if they were driving an older vehicle and were informed of its brake-related problems by a mechanic or its previous owner, and they still neglected to get them repaired or replaced.
When passengers are injured in crashes that were caused by the drivers’ negligence, they can sue them for their accident-related expenses. If the drivers weren’t at-fault for causing the crash but failed to maintain their vehicles or failed to replace or repair missing safety features, they can be held liable for any damages that result from those oversights as well.
For example, if a driver knows that the airbag isn’t working on the passenger side of his vehicle, or if a seat belt is broken or missing on a seat occupied by a passenger, the driver can be sued by their passenger if the passenger is injured due to those missing safety features.
Sometimes, drivers are involved in crashes due to poor vehicle maintenance despite seeking out help to get their vehicles in good driving condition. When this happens, it’s often due to repair shops and mechanics doing poor quality and negligent work on their vehicles.
For example, a wheel and tire shop may fail to tighten all the lug nuts on a vehicle, which can cause a tire to loosen while the vehicle is in motion. Another common scenario is a brake repair shop damaging brake lines on a vehicle, causing their brakes to be ineffective when a driver tries to slow down or stop.
As mentioned above, sometimes new cars can cause crashes due to component failures. While it’s unreasonable to hold the drivers liable for those failures, victims may be able to hold the vehicle manufacturer liable. This is common when design or production flaws result in serious and potentially dangerous defects that can interfere with drivers’ ability to safely control their vehicles.
One of the most famous examples of this occurred in August 2000 when 14.4 million Firestone tires were recalled after it was revealed that they had a tendency to separate while vehicles were in motion, putting occupants and other motorists at risk on the road. Another is the Takata air bag recall in 2014, which affected over 67 million airbags that had the potential to explode when deployed.
The aftermath of a car accident can be a hectic and confusing time. The other driver may deny liability, and their insurance company may refuse to work with you. The police report on its own may offer little to no hope for getting compensation, especially if the crash was due to poor vehicle maintenance and the responding officer couldn’t pinpoint who was at fault. Vehicles may also be too badly damaged in the crash to easily prove that any part was already defective or in need of replacement before the accident.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know there are countless causes of crashes, including poor vehicle maintenance and design, whether it’s on the part of the vehicle owner, a repair shop, or even its manufacturer. If you suspect that the other vehicle in the crash that injured you had a critical component malfunction, we want to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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