Los Angeles Auto Defect Lawyers
Pursuing Justice for Victims of Defective Vehicles
Defective cars and car parts pose an ever-present danger to drivers and passengers on U.S. roads. A nationwide study of automotive safety recalls reported that in 2014, 46 million cars in the United States had at least one open safety recall. Five million of those cars drove primarily in California. Alarming as those figures are, they do not even capture the extent of the problem, because they only represent known auto defects. Many more vehicles with unknown defects operate on our highways today.
At Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, our Los Angeles-based attorneys represent victims of auto defects and their families throughout California. Many of our clients have sustained catastrophic injuries or have family members who died in accidents caused by defective cars and car parts. Our firm has the skill, experience, and resources to handle the most complicated and difficult-to-prove cases. That is one reason why Best Lawyers in America voted us the #1 Personal Injury Firm in California, and our colleagues at other firms across the country routinely refer their clients with the most challenging auto defect matters to us.
If you or someone you love sustained a catastrophic injury or wrongful death in an accident caused by a defective automobile or auto part, call Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP at (866) 634-4525 or contact us online.
Types of Auto Defect Cases We Handle
Our Los Angeles auto defect law firm represents clients in complex cases that involve catastrophic injuries sustained in accidents caused by defective motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts. We also represent surviving family members of those who died a wrongful death in an accident. Oftentimes, our clients were involved in large, multi-vehicle or multi-casualty accidents that attracted media and regulatory attention. Our firm is one of very few nationwide with the experience, knowledge base, and resources to investigate and litigate the most complicated, catastrophic auto defect matters.
Examples of cases we have handled in the past:
- Defective steering parts
- Defective fuel systems and parts
- Defective accelerator controls
- Defective wheels
- Defective seat assemblies
- Faulty electrical systems or wiring
- Defective airbags
Potentially Liable Parties for Auto Defects
Numerous parties may potentially bear legal liability for an auto defect. They may include:
- Manufacturers. Manufacturershave an obligation to ensure their products are not unreasonably safe to use under normal operating conditions, either because of a design, manufacturing, or information defect. When they fail to do so, they may face strict liability for the catastrophic injuries and wrongful death their products caused.
- Wholesalers and shippers. These parties may have a duty to take care not to damage cars and car parts after they take delivery of them from a manufacturer. Under certain circumstances, when a wholesaler or shipper acts negligently or recklessly in storing and transporting automobiles and auto parts, they may face liability for the harm those defective products cause consumers.
- Car dealerships. Depending on the state where they operate and the circumstances of a buyer transaction, car dealerships may face liability when a defective car or car part they sold causes catastrophic injury or wrongful death on the road. In addition, if the dealership makes certain promises about the suitability or performance of a car, or damages or makes alterations to a car without telling the consumer, it may face additional liability.
- Auto parts retailers. All retailers have a duty not to sell unsafe products. If a retailer has improperly stored a car part so as to make it dangerous for use, for example, it may face liability to the consumer who purchases and uses that part in the car, resulting in a catastrophic accident.
Auto Defects: Individual Representation vs. Class Action
At Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we are uniquely suited to represent auto defect victims and their families individually. In every case we handle, we use our experience and resources to advise our clients on the path forward that best suits their interests – whether that means pursuing a class action or an individual representation.
Proceeding individually, instead of as a class, may be in our clients’ best interests when, for example:
- Our client’s particular circumstances differ from those of the class. To sustain a class action, lawyers for the class must demonstrate commonality among its members. Some victims of auto defects, however, sustained catastrophic injuries or wrongful death from auto defects in a more different than similar manner than the typical class member.
- The defect is unique. Sometimes, especially in the case of manufacturing defects, a one-off product failure might make proceeding as a class untenable under the law and more suited to our client seeking compensation on an individual basis.
- The number of injured victims is limited. Similar to the uniqueness of a defect, in instances in which only a limited number of victims have suffered catastrophic injury or wrongful death, victims may not find it possible or advisable to seek justice as a class.
Understanding Auto Defect Laws in California
The law of defective products varies among states, but most, including California, divide legally actionable defects into three categories: design defects, manufacturing defects, and information (or warning) defects.
Design Defects in Automobiles
Design defects in automobiles or auto car parts occur when manufacturers design their products in such a way as to make them unreasonably dangerous under normal operating conditions. In many cases, design defects in cars and car parts are not discovered until some time after a manufacturer has released a particular model of a vehicle. Some consumers choose not to buy cars in their first year of production for fear of such design defects. The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (2018) of motor vehicles reports that about two-thirds of problems that owners experience in the first 90 days of buying a new vehicle are design defects, and dealerships only give proper attention to fixing these design flaws when vehicles malfunction.
Vehicle Manufacturing Defects
Manufacturing defects occur during the assembly stage of a car or when associated parts are manufactured. In these cases, the design may have been safe, but something went wrong when building the car that resulted in a hazardous product. Manufacturing defects might result from malfunctioning machinery, poor materials, or an error made by a worker(s) at a car manufacturing plant. They might also occur during shipping or at the dealership. In one past case, Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, secured compensation for a victim who was hurt because of weak welds that were supposed to hold the body frame of the car together; this is one example of a manufacturing defect.
Information or Warning Defects
Information (or warning) defects typically refer to two separate potential issues. In one case our firm has handled, relevant parties did not provide adequate warnings about the dangerous aspects of a vehicle or dangerous aspects of a particular part of a vehicle. In other cases, relevant parties did not offer the consumer proper instructions about how to use certain aspects of a car. In a recent case where we represented a client in a suit against General Motors (GM), the court found GM liable for damages because it didn’t warn consumers about the hazards involved with priming a vehicle’s carburetor with gas.
Manufacturers’ Minimum Legal Responsibilities
Under Federal law (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has authority to issue motor vehicle safety standards to automotive manufacturers. The NHTSA also has the authority to force auto companies to issue recalls when it learns about safety-related defects in cars or car parts. The NHTSA-issued Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards have minimum performance requirements for the parts of the vehicle that contribute to safe operation, including brakes, tires, and lighting systems. Minimum performance requirements also exist for parts that prevent fatalities and catastrophic injuries during an accident, such as airbags and seatbelts.
In many cases, auto companies and auto parts manufacturers recall cars without government intervention when they discover a defect, but in some cases, the NHTSA must prompt action. The NHTSA requires a recall when an automobile or one of its parts doesn’t comply with one or more of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or when a safety-related defect is found in the vehicle or one of its components.
Crashworthiness and Auto Defect Litigation
Nearly any vehicle will perform adequately and safely under optimum conditions. But what if something goes wrong? Will your car, pickup truck or SUV keep you safe in an accident? If not, it may not be a crashworthy vehicle. At our firm, we always examine whether vehicles involved in accidents were crashworthy, asking questions such as: Did the design of the vehicle itself contribute to the injuries or fatalities of the vehicle occupants during a crash?
Vehicle crashworthiness encompasses several important safety issues, including:
- Crush control measures aimed at preventing roof crush and compression of the cabin in order to maintain survival space for occupants
- Restraint systems, such as airbags and seat belts, to minimize injuries to occupants inside the vehicle and to avoid injuries associated with ejected passengers
- Anti-ejection measures designed to keep occupants inside the vehicle
- Fire prevention techniques to avoid injuries and fatalities from flames, fumes and explosions
Working with in-house investigators and industry experts, we analyze a vehicle to determine whether the injuries our client sustained were caused fully or in part by a vehicle that was not crashworthy. If so, we will work to prove that an alternative design was available but the manufacturer chose not to incorporate it into the vehicle design.
A California Firm with a National Reputation for Success
Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP’s outstanding reputation and history of securing million and multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for our clients, including some of the largest settlements and verdicts in California history, make us the obvious choice for accident victims who need legal representation in complex personal injury cases involving auto defects. If you, a family member, or another person you love was severely injured in an accident that a defective motor vehicle or motor vehicle part caused, or if you represent someone in that situation, our team of compassionate professionals wants to hear from you.
Top reasons to hire one of our personal injury attorneys:
- We can conduct a thorough investigation in the event of an accident
- We have a network of leading experts in their fields
- We have experience negotiating multi-million dollar settlements in complex auto defect matters
- We have tried hundreds of cases to verdict in courtrooms across California and around the nation.
- We enjoy the support of a staff of investigators and paralegal professionals that understands the most effective ways to present complicated information.
- We are selective about handling only the most difficult and challenging cases so we can wholeheartedly invest our resources.
- Our attorneys have won dozens of firm-wide honors and individual awards,
- We work on a contingency fee basis
The team at Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, has extensive experience investigating and litigating complex, catastrophic personal injury matters involving auto defects. Our firm has secured more multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for our partners than any other personal injury law firm in California. One of our attorneys, Christine Spagnoli, was an integral member of the trial team that secured one of the largest individual product liability verdicts in U.S. history—$4.9 billion—on behalf of two adults and four children who sustained severe burn injuries caused by a defective fuel tank.
Call (866) 634-4525 today to request a free consultation with our team.
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