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When is a carmaker liable for an automobile design defect?

Under Florida law, when a person is injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver they have the right to seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. But sometimes the injuries in a crash are made significantly worse by an unsafe automobile design. In these situations, the injured victim has the right to bring a products liability lawsuit against the carmaker.

The central concept in automobile design defect cases is a concept known as crashworthiness. This refers to how well the vehicle protects occupants when a collision occurs. During a collision the people inside the car can be violently thrown about by the rapid deceleration forces, and may strike portions of the car's interior. This is often referred to as the "second collision." A well-designed car will restrain the occupants and spread the forces of deceleration over a longer time and a greater distance. Design features that are intended to reduce injury when a collision occurs include airbags, seat belts and crumple zones.

In a products liability claim based on crashworthiness the cause of the accident is not the issue. Products liability law requires manufacturers to design products that are safe for any reasonably foreseeable use. Carmakers know that some of their vehicles will inevitably be involved in crashes, so they have a legal duty to make the vehicle reasonably safe for its occupants in the event of a collision.

Automobile design defect cases are challenging and complex. The carmakers defend these cases vigorously. The plaintiff must present testimony by automobile design experts to prove liability on the part of the carmaker. Anyone considering bringing a product liability case based on crashworthiness can benefit from consulting a law firm with experience in this type of litigation.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Car Defects: The Concept of 'Crashworthiness,'" accessed Oct. 24, 2016

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