Most of the time on this blog, when we discuss automotive injuries, we are talking about motor vehicle accidents. In these cases, the injured party can hold negligent drivers liable for the damages they cause. Sometimes, we discuss more complex forms of liability, as when we talk about holding trucking companies liable for damages caused by their drivers in an accident.
Another type of liability that comes up in some car accidents is known as product liability. This is the legal theory that allows people to hold manufacturers and other parties liable after they are injured due to a defective product. The defective products in these cases can be toys, foods, prescription drugs, medical devices and just about anything else a consumer might purchase and be injured by.
In automotive injury cases, product liability often comes into play when a defect in the vehicle itself has caused or worsened the injury. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident because the car's airbag exploded unexpectedly and unnecessarily, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, the car manufacturer and/or the manufacturer of the airbag may be held liable for the damages. Other parties, such as the vehicle's seller, might be held liable as well.
In most personal injury cases, the injured party must prove that the other party caused the injury through negligence, and that that party should therefore be held liable for the resulting damages. However, in product liability cases, the car manufacturer or seller may be held to the standard of strict liability. This means that the court presumes the defendants should be held liable for damages caused by a defect in the car, so long as the driver was using the car as it was intended to be used, and so long as the car had not been substantially altered from the way it was when it was sold.
Product liability can be a very complicated area of the law, and these cases often take a lot of time to resolve. However, these cases can be important ways to encourage the automotive industry to make and sell safer vehicles, and they can be crucial to helping the injured and their families in the months and years after an accident.