Florida Auto Liability Claims Attorneys

Automobile product liability claims arise from defects in the design or safety of an motor vehicle which result in some form of harm to a consumer.  The 1981 Ford Pinto gas tank litigation (Grimshaw v. Ford) was a seminal case in developing the theory of vehicular products liability.  In it the California Court of Appeals ruled that the Ford Motor Company had favored cost saving measures over more comprehensive safety measures in the impact design of the Ford Pinto automobile.  Since that watershed case, automobile products liability has expanded to include a significant list of safety defects, which Podhurst Orseck litigators have the knowledge and experience to pursue on their clients’ behalf.

The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as, “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”  The law further defines a defect as, “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers the following to be examples of safety related defects:

  • Steering components that break suddenly, causing partial or complete loss of vehicle control.
  • Problems with fuel system components, particularly in their susceptibility to crash damage, that result in leakage of fuel and possibly cause vehicle fires.
  • Accelerator controls that break or stick.  Reports of stuck accelerator peddles caused by sliding floor mats, design flaws and failures in anti-lock braking systems resulted in a series of high-profile recalls by the Toyota Motor Company in 2009 and 2010.
  • Wheels which crack or break, resulting in loss of vehicle control.
  • Engine cooling fan blades that splinter unexpectedly, causing injury to persons working on a vehicle.
  • Windshield wiper assemblies that fail to operate properly.
  • Seats or seat backs that fail unexpectedly during normal use.
  • Critical vehicle components that fail, fall apart or separate from the vehicle, causing loss of vehicle control or injury to persons inside or outside the vehicle.
  • Wiring system problems that result in a fire or loss of lighting.
  • Car ramps or jacks that may collapse and cause injury to someone working on a vehicle.
  • Air bags that deploy under conditions for which they are not intended to deploy.
  • Child safety seats that contain defective safety belts, buckles, or components which create a risk of injury, not only in a vehicle crash but also in the non-operational safety of a motor vehicle.

Excluded from the definition of “safety related” are parts of a vehicle that have been subjected to normal wear and tear and require routine replacement, non-structural rust, radio problems, air-conditioner problems, paint blemishes and excessive oil consumption.

Vehicle rollovers also generally fall into this broad topical area.  Please see our practice page in this area of the law here