When Car Electrical Problems Lead to Accidents

It seems like every other week there are news stories detailing a car recall. One of the most vulnerable areas of a car is the electrical system. Car electrical problems can lead to serious malfunctions with the vehicle and, ultimately, can cause accidents.

Additionally, they may disable the car’s safety features, adding to the injuries sustained in an accident. If you were a victim of an accident related to an electrical defect with a vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer for your injuries in a product liability lawsuit.

Common Electrical Defects in Cars

Electrical defects lead to many malfunctions and failures in the car. The actual electrical system can fail or another system in the car can fail, damaging the electrical system and causing other problems with the car.

Below are some examples of problems electrical failure can cause

  • stalled engine;
  • electrical shocks;
  • gearbox failures;
  • battery terminal failure;
  • fuel pump malfunction;
  • loss of exterior lighting;
  • malfunctioning door controls;
  • loss of power brakes or steering; and
  • computer defects.

The defect can contribute directly or indirectly to an accident. For example, if a driver loses engine power, he or she may cause an accident from suddenly decelerating. An electrical failure may also disable the airbag system or other safety systems, making any accident more serious.

One example of a car electrical problem came in October 2013 when Toyota issued a recall on 885,000 sedans and crossover vehicles sold in the U.S. for electrical issues. The air conditioner in these vehicles could leak water and short circuit the airbag module. Because of the short circuit, there was a chance that the airbag wouldn’t deploy correctly in an accident.

General Motors recently recalled 2.6 million cars for a faulty ignition switch which also shows how important the electrical system can be. This defect caused the car’s entire electrical system and engine to shut down. It’s been linked to at least 13 deaths and is the subject of numerous federal investigations.

How Car Recalls Are Handled

Car manufacturers are required to issue recalls when they detect that the car’s equipment doesn’t comply with federal standards. Anytime there’s a defect in a vehicle’s performance, construction, or materials that creates a risk to safety, the manufacturer or the federal government will issue a recall.

While most recalls are initiated by the manufacturer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigation (ODI) also conducts investigations and has the power to issue recalls. Consumers can submit complaints to the ODI by calling 800-424-9393 or visiting www.safercar.gov. If a recall is initiated, the manufacturer usually replaces the affected parts at local dealers at no cost and may offer courtesy vehicles for the affected drivers.

Legal Options after an Accident

Car owners have a right to file defective product lawsuits against manufacturers if a design or manufacturing problem led to an accident.

Your attorney can discuss bringing a lawsuit under: 

  • breach of express warranty;
  • breach of implied warranty; or
  • strict product liability.

Strict product liability means that the manufacturer can be liable for the defect regardless of any reasonable care they put into manufacturing the product.

In order to win a product defect lawsuit after an accident, the plaintiff must prove

  • he or she was injured in the accident;
  • the car had a defect; and
  • the defect caused the accident and the resulting injuries.

If you were in an accident because of a defective car part, consider hiring an attorney. Product defect lawsuits can get very complicated but an attorney can help you sort through the legalese to present your case.

Gacovino, Lake & Associates can present complex product defect claims and represent accident victims’ rights if a car electrical problem caused their injuries. Contact our office at 800-550-0000 to schedule a free consultation about your accident claim.

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