Who Is Liable When Car Defects Cause a Crash in Chicago?

Posted on August 04, 2023

In accidents caused by car defects, the manufacturer of the vehicle or defective part, other entities involved in the vehicle’s chain of commerce, a mechanic, or the driver or vehicle owner may be liable. While most accidents result from driver error, some car accidents occur due to automotive defects rather than the actions of their operators. Manufacturers have recalled millions of cars in recent years due to defects that could cause accidents. However, many defective vehicles remain in the chain of commerce and cause thousands of accidents every year.

Common Vehicle Defects That Cause Car Accidents

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey found that 44,000 accidents caused by vehicle defects occurred over a two-and-a-half-year period. The mechanical flaws that commonly contribute to accidents include:

Defective Tires

The NHTSA survey estimates that tire problems account for about 35% of defect-related accidents. There were 622 fatalities in tire-related crashes in 2021. Tires can be defective due to several factors, such as the use of weak or faulty materials, under-vulcanization, poor bonding during the manufacturing process, lack of all the necessary components, and improper repair.

Tire defects can make a car unsafe to drive. They can cause tread separation and blowouts that may make vehicles swerve onto oncoming traffic, veer off the road, or roll over multiple times. Tire issues are a common factor in SUV rollover accidents.

Faulty Brakes

Brakes are integral safety features that help prevent accidents. When they fail, they can make a driver unable to stop safely and in time. According to the NHTSA study, brake-related problems account for 22% of defect-related crashes.

Faulty brakes are significant contributors to rear-end collisions. They can also cause drivers to crash into stationary objects like trees and utility poles. Brakes can malfunction due to faulty brake lines, worn-out brake pads, and anti-lock braking system (ABS) issues.

Steering Defects

Improper assembly, broken steering relays, bad ball joints, and failing power steering pumps are some of the car defects that can make a steering system fail. Defective steering systems can make drivers lose control of their cars and cause accidents.

Transmission deficiencies and lighting issues can also cause defect-related car accidents.

What Parties Can Be Held Liable When a Defect Causes an Accident?

Several parties may be to blame when a defect causes a car accident. The party that should be held liable in your accident depends on the reason behind the mechanical failure. Here are the parties a car accident attorney can help you hold accountable for your injuries and losses from an accident caused by a defect.

Manufacturer and Other Parties Within the Distribution Chain

If a manufacturer produces and puts defective vehicles on the road, the manufacturer can be liable for the resulting accidents. Manufacturers must follow strict standards when designing and producing vehicles and their components. They should thoroughly inspect and test the cars before releasing them to the public to protect consumers from harm.

You can sue a manufacturer for damages if you’re injured in an accident because of a car that’s defectively designed, poorly manufactured, or generally unsafe. The owner of a defective vehicle, as well as the occupants of other cars involved in the accident, may have a valid claim against the manufacturer of the defective vehicle.

Other parties involved in a defective vehicle’s chain of production and distribution can also be liable for damages, depending on the facts of the crash. These parties may include the manufacturer of a specific component of the vehicle, the company that assembled a vehicle or one of its systems, the company that transported the vehicle from the manufacturer to the car dealership, and the dealership that sold it.

For example, a car component manufacturer could be liable for an accident if it resulted from a defective part the company manufactured. If a defective tire blows out and causes an accident, the tire manufacturer could be held liable. A shipping company or distributor can be held responsible if a car that was designed and manufactured properly picked up defects during negligent transportation.

Mechanic or Repair Shop

An auto repair shop or mechanic can also be liable if your vehicle has recently undergone repairs or maintenance and the recently worked-on or newly installed part caused your accident. There has to be some negligence on the part of the mechanic or repair shop for you to hold them liable.

Mechanics owe vehicle owners a duty of care to exercise a reasonable amount of care when performing car repairs. If they fail to do so for reasons like inattention or incompetence, they can be held responsible for the injuries and losses suffered by the customers because of their negligence. Examples of negligence that could open up a mechanic to liability include:

  • Failing to identify a defect after inspection
  • Failing to repair a defect adequately if the customer had brought in the car to address that problem
  •  Installing a defective replacement part

Driver or Vehicle Owner

There are situations where a driver or vehicle owner can be liable for a crash resulting from mechanical failure in Chicago. Every person who operates a motor vehicle should take reasonable steps to keep it in top working condition, including keeping up with regular maintenance and repairs. Failure to take sufficient steps to care for a vehicle could lead to liability for an accident caused by a defect.

A driver may be found partially or completely responsible for an accident if he or she failed to adhere to the vehicle’s maintenance schedule, knew about a defect but didn’t have it repaired, or ignored a recall and that defect led to an accident.

Vehicle owners can also be held liable for accidents if they fail to inspect their vehicles and perform regular maintenance. For example, suppose you were involved in a trucking accident caused by a defect like defective couplings or tire blowout. A truck accident lawyer can hold the trucking company liable for damages caused if investigations reveal that the company has a long history of neglecting inspections that could’ve caught defects.

How to Pursue Compensation After a Defect-Related Accident in Chicago

If you’re involved in an accident and suffer injuries due to a mechanical defect, you may be eligible to recover compensation for your injuries, property damage, and other damages. When an accident occurs due to the negligent or reckless actions of another driver, the process of establishing liability and pursuing compensation is fairly straightforward. The process can be more complicated when an accident results from car defects. Nevertheless, to receive compensation, you’ll need to identify the responsible parties in your defect-related crash and provide the necessary evidence to support your claim.

Multiple parties may be to blame for a mechanical failure-related accident. Comparative negligence principles apply to such cases in Chicago and other areas in Illinois. Fault can be assigned to more than one party, and the amount of compensation you receive will reduce according to your percentage of comparative fault. You can claim damages, provided your percentage of fault doesn’t exceed 50%.

Evidence can prove mechanical defects and damages suffered and help build a solid case against the liable parties. These include photos of the accident scene, police report related to your crash, medical records, witness statements, manufacturer’s records, maintenance records, a comparison of the defective part with similar types of components, and any warnings, instructions, warranties, and other documentation included with your car.

The steps you take after an accident caused by a defect are crucial to protecting your right to collect compensation.

What to Do After a Car Accident

If you’re involved in a defect-related crash, preserving any evidence that could support your claim is essential. If you can, take photos and videos of the accident scene and damage to the cars involved. Avoid repairing your car before talking to a car accident lawyer and having the car professionally inspected. That will help establish the link between the vehicle defect and the crash.

Call the police so that a report is filed. Witnesses can also be important sources of evidence. For example, if you were involved in a tire blowout accident, witnesses could have heard the loud noise coming from the tire or seen the tire burst. Take down the names and contact details of any witnesses.

Seek prompt medical attention even if you feel you don’t have severe injuries. Some serious injuries don’t show immediate symptoms. Ensure you follow up with the additional medical appointments and treatments. Missing doctor’s appointments could hurt a personal injury claim. The defendants could use that against you by arguing that your current symptoms have resulted from your neglect of treatment, or that you weren’t severely injured in the first place.

It’s also essential to schedule a consultation with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You

A car accident lawyer will assess your claim to determine if it involves defects, advise you on the best course of action, and guide you through the various legal processes as your automobile defect case progresses. You can ask a truck accident lawyer to give you more insight into your case.

Car and parts manufacturers have teams of lawyers who aggressively defend their cases and protect their interests. Taking them on by yourself will likely be intimidating. A car accident attorney will stand by your side throughout the case to protect your rights and best interests.

Your lawyer will work quickly to gather and preserve evidence showing the vehicle malfunction, all the parties liable for the defect, and all your costs resulting from the accident. A lawyer will accurately determine the present and future costs of your accident-related injuries to ensure you pursue an appropriate amount of damages.