When is a vehicle manufacturer liable for a car accident?

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We trust the manufacturers of the cars on our roads have designed and produced them with safety in mind and have adhered to high quality standards. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and negligent manufacturers can create dangerous situations if they sell defective or dangerous vehicles. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, you may be able to hold a vehicle manufacturer liable for your injuries.

Manufacturer Liability Laws

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) § 7.72.030(1) states, "a product manufacturer is subject to liability to a claimant if the claimant's harm was proximately caused by the negligence of the manufacturer in that the product was not reasonably safe as designed or not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided."

This law places liability on manufacturers if they sell a dangerously designed vehicle or fail to include proper warnings or instructions for use in an owner’s manual. Warnings may include stickers placed on various areas such as behind the sun visors where they warn about front seat airbags.

An example of defective liability is if the design of your vehicle model put the engine too close to the power steering lines. As the car runs, the engine heats up, and the lines melt, causing a loss of control. If this resulted in a crash and you can show evidence that the melted wires caused you to lose steering control, you may be able to hold your vehicle's manufacturer liable for that design flaw.

RCW § 7.72.030(2) adds to the manufacturer's liability by stating that a manufacturer may be liable for damages caused by a vehicle that was, "not reasonably safe in construction." This means that even if the manufacturer designed the car to be safe, if it did not assemble it properly at the factory, you can hold the manufacturer liable for your vehicle’s defects from production.

Strict Liability in a Dangerous or Defective Vehicle Claim

The laws hold product manufacturers to a higher standard of liability than your average person. This law, known as strict liability, allows you to hold the manufacturer liable without having to present proof that the manufacturer was negligent. Strict liability laws came about to make filing claims against big manufacturers easier on claimants.

To be eligible to receive compensation, you must prove three things:

  • The vehicle was unreasonably dangerous due to the design, manufacture, or delivery of the vehicle at the time of purchase.
  • The defect caused an accident while you were using the vehicle in a normal and safe manner.
  • You did not “substantially modify” the vehicle from its factory condition.

Using a vehicle in a normal and safe manner means you were following all applicable traffic laws and the accident would not have occurred but for the defect. A substantial modification would be modifying a part of the vehicle that is integral to how the vehicle performs, such as the engine.

Filing a Defective Vehicle Claim Against a Manufacturer

While strict liability does make it easier to file a claim, the manufacturer may be successful in defending against your claim if it had already started a recall for the defect before the accident. The manufacturer may claim you failed to heed prior warnings and correct the problem, which would make you liable for your injuries.

Fighting vehicle manufacturers on claims of dangerous or defective vehicles is difficult to do alone. A Washington car accident attorney can help you prove that the cause of your accident was a manufacturer and not personal negligence. 

Contact Max Meyers Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your potential claim: 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.