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When your car is faulty and you get into an accident because of the fault, then it is important to know what options you have in order to get compensation. Fault and negligence are critical aspects of any personal injury claim.
If a car is brand new, then any faults are likely due to manufacturer error. In this case, the manufacturer of the car could face a lawsuit. They have a duty to provide customers with a product, the vehicle, that is in good working order and performs according to the advertised specifications. Failing that duty by providing a faulty vehicle, especially if the fault leads to an accident or injury, fits the negligence requirement of a lawsuit.
Under certain conditions, fault may be more nuanced. This often depends on the exact part of the car that failed and how that particular part was developed. For example, if the manufacturer outsources that part from another company, then the company responsible for producing that particular part would be at fault. Often times, the manufacturer and the other company share fault because the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for what goes in the vehicle and for doing proper quality and assurance testing to make sure it performs correctly. When targeting major companies in such lawsuits, an attorney may be able to provide guidance about fault and which party is the best option to sue.
If there is fault in a used car, then things are less clear. The problem may ultimately still be traceable back the manufacturer because of a defect. In other cases, the fault may be due to improper maintenance or damage the car has received. While a used car seller is not held to the same product standards as a manufacturer, there is still some duty of care involved. Sellers of used cars are legally required to disclose certain types of damages in writing to the buyer. The exact laws can sometimes vary by state. In general, if the car has suffered major damage of more than 25 percent of its value or if it has suffered extensive water damage, these must be disclosed. A seller is also usually required to disclose any damages that the buyer specially asks about and provide the information in writing.
Failure to follow these disclosure laws could open up a used car dealer or even a private individual to a lawsuit if the car was faulty enough to cause an accident. Keep in mind that disclosure usually releases the seller from liability. So if the buyer knows of the problem but purchases and uses the car anyway, they cannot sue the seller.
There can be other complications. The buyer would have to prove definitively that the accident was caused by the fault which was caused by the damage the seller didn't disclose. All personal injury lawsuits require very clear connections between fault, injury and damages in order to work well in court. If there are large gray areas or uncertainty in the information, then a lawsuit may not be worth perusing. A seller may also be able to claim limited damages from an individual, even if they win the lawsuit. At the end of the day, they can only claim what the person is able to pay.
Sometimes a fault is clearly due to improper maintenance from a mechanic or repair shop. Tires are notorious for this. It is a common problem that a tire shop will not secure the tires properly or tighten all of the bolts that secure the tire to the car. This can lead to sudden and severe accidents. It may be easier to connect these problems with maintenance issues if they happen soon after the vehicle was in the shop. This is one reason it is important to keep copies of maintenance records that detail everything that was done to the car.
As a final note, it is important to consider damages and a lawsuit carefully. Lawsuits are often expensive to pursue and may not even be worth the legal expense in some situations. It is also important to understand the types of damages that can be recovered in a lawsuit. These are good questions to ask an attorney who can give you an idea of the overall value of your case and the likelihood of success in a lawsuit.