Motor-vehicle accidents involving cars/autos, trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles are among the most frequent causes of life-threatening and fatal injuries in the United States. Even the most careful drivers can become victims of traffic accidents brought about by the negligence of other drivers and/or defects in one or more vehicles. When driver negligence or vehicle defects lead to accidents and resultant injuries or deaths, the drivers and the entities involved in the production and distribution of the defective vehicles may be ordered to pay financial damages to injured victims or deceased victims’ survivors.
If you have been injured or one of your family members has died as a result of a car or auto accident caused by someone’s negligence or a defective vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania car-accident and auto-accident lawyers have extensive experience with all types of vehicle-accident cases. Contact our seasoned team of Pennsylvania car- and auto-accident attorneys at 877-875-2927 for a cost-free evaluation of your case and additional information about your legal rights and options.
Legal Liability for Car or Auto Accident Injuries and Deaths
While some auto and car accidents may result from dangerous weather conditions, poor road maintenance, or even faulty traffic signals, most are caused by the negligence of one or more drivers and/or by defects in cars and other motor vehicles.
Car and Auto Accidents Caused by Driver Negligence
Negligent driving occurs every day throughout the United States and often leads to injuries and deaths that could have been prevented. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances, driving while fatigued, and driving in an inattentive or aggressive manner are among the many instances of driver behavior that may be found to constitute actionable negligence in personal-injury or wrongful-death actions brought to recover damages suffered by injured victims or deceased victims’ families.
All drivers are required to exercise reasonable care for the safety of other drivers, vehicle occupants, and pedestrians and are subject to liability for accident injuries or deaths determined to have been caused by violations of the duty of reasonable care. Certain driver behaviors, including violations of legal blood-alcohol-concentration (BAC) laws, traffic signals, lane-changing rules, speed limits, and passing rules, may be considered negligence per se. This means that proof of the violation, in itself, will be considered proof that the driver has failed to fulfill the duty of reasonable care owed by the driver to injured victims. In such cases, driver liability may be established through proof that the rule violation in question was a cause of an accident victim’s injury or death.
Apart from traffic-law and road-rule violations, any other instances of negligent driving causal of accident injuries or deaths may lead to a driver’s legal responsibility for damages sustained by injured victims. In these cases, plaintiffs will be required to establish that the particular driver behavior, while not a violation of any applicable traffic law or road rule, nevertheless constituted a breach of the duty of care owed to other drivers and vehicle occupants. Examples of such behavior may include all types of inattentive driving, such as changing lanes without checking blind spots; taking eyes off roads and traffic to consult cell phones or GPS, change radio stations or CDs, look at vehicle passengers, or admire passing scenery; eating and drinking while driving; following too closely behind other vehicles; or cutting off other vehicles or failing to signal when changing lanes. Negligence may also be established when a driver has operated a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, even if the driver’s BAC was within the legal limit. In each of these cases and others, drivers may be found liable for accidents and resultant injuries and deaths ruled to have been caused by such negligent driving.
Car and Auto Accidents Caused by Defective Cars and Other Motor Vehicles
In addition to driver negligence, defects in one or more vehicles are also frequent causes of car and auto accidents. In some cases, vehicle defects may contribute to accidents and injuries that have also resulted from negligent driving. When any one of certain types of defects are determined to have been a cause of an auto or car accident and resultant injuries, the vehicle manufacturer and other entities involved in the vehicle’s production and distribution may be held strictly liable under Pennsylvania law for accident injuries and deaths shown to have been caused by the vehicle defect.
Though products-liability actions may be brought as negligence, breach-of-warranty, or strict-liability claims, plaintiffs generally prefer the strict-liability form of product-liability action, because strict-liability claims allow plaintiffs to establish certain defendants’ liability without having to show that any of the defendants was negligent in producing a defective vehicle or in releasing it to the market. Defendants that may be held strictly liable in Pennsylvania strict-liability actions (as described in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Section 402A) include designers, manufacturers, suppliers, assemblers, and distributors of defective vehicles and vehicle components that are found to have caused or contributed to car accidents and resultant injuries or deaths.
Only certain types of vehicle defects can result in such liability, however. Defects that can lead to vehicle producers’ and distributors’ strict liability are limited to defects in vehicles’ design, manufacture, or warnings that render the vehicles unreasonably dangerous for consumers’ use. In addition, these defects must have existed both at the time the vehicles were sold and at the time the injury-causing accidents occurred. Examples of design or manufacturing defects may include faulty ignition switches, power-steering, or brakes; defective tires; or fuel tanks placed in unreasonably dangerous locations.
Car and Auto Accident Injuries Enhanced by Crashworthiness Defects
Certain types of vehicle defects do not cause car and auto accidents but may enhance injuries (i.e., increase injuries beyond what they might have been) sustained in accidents that are due to other causes. These defects are commonly known as “crashworthiness” defects and may result in the strict liability of vehicle and vehicle-component producers and distributors for injuries enhanced by such defects.
A car crash may be caused by driver negligence, for example, and result in greater injury to a vehicle occupant using a defective seatbelt than the occupant would have sustained if the seatbelt had not been defective. In such a case, the seatbelt designer, manufacturer, and supplier, as well as other entities in the vehicle’s chain of production and distribution, may be found strictly liable for the occupant’s enhanced injuries. A defective airbag that explodes with excessive force and injures vehicle occupants involved in an accident may lead to the strict liability of the airbag manufacturer and other entities involved in the particular vehicle’s production and distribution for the injuries or deaths caused by the airbag defect.
If you have been injured or one of your family members has died as a result of a car or auto accident caused by driver negligence or a defective vehicle or vehicle component, The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania car-accident and auto-accident lawyers can help you obtain justice from the responsible parties. Contact us at 877-875-2927 for experienced and aggressive assistance with your case.