When a Vehicle's Safety Defect Warrants a Lawsuit

 The National Traffic and Motor Safety Vehicle Act has been in effect since 1966 to ensure that auto manufacturers produce motor vehicles that are safe and that they will issue recalls when vehicles have defects that do not meet federal standards. Since the law was passed, there have been nearly 400 million vehicle recalls, as well as 46 million tire recalls.

The U.S. Code for Motor Vehicle Safety states that a "defect" includes a defect in performance, construction, component or material of a vehicle or vehicle equipment. Safety defects are those which create risks to the safety of drivers and passengers. In some cases, a vehicle’s safety defect can warrant a product liability lawsuit.

Automotive Product Defect Types

There are two major ways that an automotive safety defect occurs:


  • Defect in manufacturing of a vehicle or vehicle part: The manufacturing defect is in one specific vehicle and not in a large number of vehicles within that make or model. Not properly inspecting the vehicle or discovering the error during manufacturing can lead to a safety defect.
  • Vehicle is defectively designed: This happens when all vehicles that are a certain make or model have a design defect, and the design of that vehicle leads to safety risk.


Common defects in motor vehicles that can sometimes lead to a lawsuit include:


  • A steering system that causes loss of vehicle control
  • Airbags that are defective
  • Tires that are defective and lead to accident or loss of control
  • Roof caves in during a rollover accident
  • Seatbelts that are defective
  • Fuel system leak leads to fire or explosion
  • Accelerator sticks
  • Engine cooling fan breaks
  • Wiring system leads to short circuit or fire
  • Steering components are defective
  • Braking system is defective, such as non-functional anti-lock brakes.


Who To Sue for an Automotive Defect

When a vehicle is manufactured, there are several auto components in the supply chain that could be liable for defective parts that caused a collision. The party that can be held liable in a lawsuit depends upon the type of product or part that malfunctioned and caused an injury.

Every vehicle manufacturer has the responsibility of product liability. Each auto manufacturer must make certain that the motor vehicles and parts that it makes are safe. When this does not occur, common defendants in product liability lawsuits include:


  • Auto manufacturer: The auto manufacturer is the first entity that should be considered by you and your product liability attorney. It is possible for more than one manufacturer to be sued. The auto manufacturer may not have issued a recall notice or failed to provide adequate warnings about the safety defect.
  • Parts manufacturer: Automotive parts that are used in the production process can be made by many companies. The manufacturer or supplier of the car parts could be held liable for causing a car accident and the resulting injuries.
  • Distributor: Any other entity that was involved in the distribution chain may also be held liable in a lawsuit. Parts can develop defects when they are handled during shipping or can be damaged during storage. The company that distributed the parts to the auto manufacturer also may be liable.


Whether or not there can be a product liability lawsuit and against whom it should be filed depends upon the nature of the crash and what caused it. It is possible that multiple parties are responsible for the safety defect that caused the accident.

Defective Auto Part Class Action Lawsuit

Another option to recover compensation for an auto part defect is a class action lawsuit. There could be a current class action lawsuit that involves the defective part or parts that caused your injuries.

Should You Sue?

Whether or not to file a lawsuit hinges upon the ability of your attorney to prove liability on the part of the auto or parts manufacturer or other entity involved in the supply chain. The attorney must prove that the product was unreasonably dangerous in design, or became defective during its manufacture or during shipment. It also most be shown that the defect led to your injury, and that the injury occurred while the vehicle or part was being used in the way intended.

A skilled product liability attorney in your state can review your case to determine whether a product liability lawsuit is likely to be successful.