It is a truism that motor vehicle accidents are going to happen and that most such accidents are “caused” by drivers. However, the “cause” of an accident is not always the legal cause of all of the occupants’ injuries. “Enhanced injuries” are often sustained because the vehicle was not crashworthy.
The concept of a crashworthy vehicle derives from the aviation field and refers to the capacity of a vehicle to protect all its occupants from injuries in an otherwise survivable crash.
An automobile manufacturer has a legal duty to design and manufacture vehicles that provide for the safety of the occupants in foreseeable vehicular accidents.
Although a collision may not be a “normal” or intended use of a motor vehicle, vehicle manufacturers must take accidents into consideration as reasonably foreseeable occurrences involving their products. The design and manufacture of products should not be carried out in an industrial vacuum, but with recognition of the realities of everyday use. For that reason “the manufacturer must evaluate the crashworthiness of his product and take such steps as may be reasonable and practicable to forestall particular crash injuries and mitigate the seriousness of others.” Doupnik v. General Motors Corp., 225 Cal.App.3d 849, 858-9, 275 Cal.Reptr. 715, 720 (Cal. App. 1990):
It is now universally accepted that the manufacturer is liable for injuries sustained in a vehicular accident because of a defect that was not the cause of the accident, but that caused or enhanced the degree of injuries suffered.
[I]t is not important that the defect did not actually cause the initial accident, as long it was a substantial factor in causing injury as alleged in plaintiff’s complaint. As this court held in Schnabl v. Ford Motor Co. 54 Wis. 2d 345, 353-54, 195 N.W.2d 602, 198 N.W.2d 161 (1972) (citation added):
”. . . Appellant is not suing for total injuries, but for the death alleged to have been caused by the incremental injury which occurred because of the faulty seat belt. This court has held that ‘[t]he test of cause in Wisconsin is whether the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in contributing to the result.’ It need not be the sole factor, the primary factor, only ‘a substantial factor.’ Whether the delivery in Wisconsin of a faulty seat belt could have been a substantial factor in causing of the death of the deceased, even if it played no part in the accident, is a question of fact to be determined by the trier of fact.”
Our firm has tried many cases involving uncrashworthy vehicles, where injuries have been enhanced or increased due to defects in the vehicle such as:
If you feel you have sustained additional injuries due to a defect in your vehicle, contact a vehicle defect lawyer at Murphy & Prachthauser for a free case evaluation.