A car crash is not necessarily caused by another driver. Some crashes – involving one or more cars – are instead caused by issues with a vehicle itself. For example, if your brakes fail or your ignition switch turns off mid-drive, that isn’t the other driver’s fault. But then how does the legal system respond?
Generally, victims of car accidents can sue whoever was responsible for the accident. In New Jersey, this means you can sue vehicle manufacturers and auto part manufacturers if the parts supplied in your car were defective or dangerous and caused you to crash. If you were crashed into by another car because of defective auto parts in their vehicle, you might also be able to sue the manufacturer of their car.
Call our NJ car accident lawyers at Legal Care New Jersey today at (732) 838-9769 for a free review of your case.
How to Prove a Defective Vehicle Lawsuit in NJ
If you were injured by a defective or dangerous product, you can usually sue the manufacturer or seller of the product. If you were injured in a car crash, you can usually sue the person or company who caused the crash. When car crashes are caused by defective auto parts, this means you can usually sue the manufacturer of the car or the specific auto part, but you have to lay the groundwork to prove your case.
First, there must be some actual defect with the product. Auto defects can stem from a problem with the design, such as putting the gas tank in a location where it is prone to explode during a crash or designing an airbag housing that degrades in hot weather and can shatter into shrapnel when the airbag goes off. These examples are both based on real-life examples of alleged auto design defects: the Ford Pinto of the 1970s and Takata airbags of the early 2000s. Defects can also stem from an issue with the manufacturing, such as missing pieces during assembly or deviating from the design by substituting in inferior materials.
If the product was not defective when it left the manufacturer, but a mechanic later unreasonably broke or ruined it, the accident might be the mechanic’s fault instead of the product manufacturer’s.
Second, that defect must be what actually caused your crash. For example, if your car had a defective ignition switch, but the vehicle remained on and operable throughout the crash, the defect would not be responsible for the crash. If the defect contributed to the crash, but there was also a driver who did something dangerous, then you might be able to sue both the dangerous driver and the auto manufacturer, with each paying their fair share of damages based on their percentage of fault.
How to Gather Evidence to Prove a Vehicle Defect in a NJ Car Accident Case
If you need to prove that the defect existed and that it was what caused your crash, you will often need an expert to examine your case. Our Jersey City car accident lawyers can help gather evidence and hire qualified engineers and industry experts to take a look at the evidence in your case so that they can give their expert opinion to the court and help determine that the accident was indeed caused by the defective vehicle parts.
Courts often turn to experts when the case deals with areas of scientific, medical, engineering, or other technical expertise. For example, it is unlikely that every juror, judge, attorney, and party to a case understands exactly how a particular auto part is designed, why it is designed that way, and when it is or is not in proper working order. Because of this, we can present experts who are qualified to understand that kind of information so they can explain it to the court and help the jury understand that there was in fact a defect. They can also explain what the defect did and how it contributed to the crash.
For an expert to make a report about the defective auto part, they usually need to examine the auto part. This is why it is important to save any defective vehicle parts, have a mechanic examine your car after a crash, and consult with a lawyer on what other evidence needs to be collected. Our Trenton, NJ car accident lawyers can also help you put together your recollection of the accident and statements from witnesses to help provide the expert with information to use in making their report about the vehicle defect.
Suing Your Auto Manufacturer vs. Suing the Other Driver’s Auto Manufacturer
When you buy a product, there is an expectation and a duty placed on the seller and manufacturer to make it safe for you. That means that if your car was defective, you should be able to sue the manufacturer. However, things are a bit different when a third party (e.g., another driver) is injured by someone else’s defective vehicle.
First, if you were injured because someone was driving around a vehicle they knew was defective and dangerous, that might be the driver’s fault instead of the manufacturers – or fault might be split among them. Second, if the defect was their mechanic’s fault and not the manufacturer’s, then you usually can’t sue the manufacturer. Obtaining a good history of the vehicle’s maintenance can help rule this out, as can evidence that other vehicles made by the same factory/manufacturer have the same defect.
Older laws have said that someone who did not buy the product cannot sue the manufacturer for injury from the product. That would mean that a third-party driver cannot sue the manufacturer of the other driver’s car. However, strict liability laws like N.J.S.A. § 2A:58C-2 usually mean this defense is not applicable today.
Call Our NJ Car Accident Attorneys Today
For help with your car accident case, call Legal Care New Jersey’s Newark car accident lawyers at (732) 838-9769.