How Does Product Liability Affect an Auto Accident Claim?

by Anonymous

How does a product liability claim against a manufacturer affect a personal injury claim against a negligent driver? A negligent driver causes an injury. A defective safety feature of a vehicle increases the injury. How are these two separate causes of action affected throughout the litigation process?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "How Does Product Liability Affect an Auto Accident Claim?":

Let’s try and answer your legally sophisticated questions with an example...

Automobile collisions are sometimes the result of manufacturers’ defective products. Let’s define negligence as it relates to your question. There may be two forms of negligence here.

We’ll call the at-fault driver Ms. Ima Sorey and the second driver Mr. Y. Mee. The first form of negligence may be crystal clear. Ima Sorey may have been following too closely. Period! If her following too closely was a purposeful act carried out void of affect by a defective product (here probably defective brakes) than Ima Sorey’s negligence is clear and stands alone.

On the other hand if Ms. Sorey was following too closely and attempted to stop but her defective brakes failed and she collided with Mr. Y. Mee, then her negligence might be lessened.

In the alternative let’s presume Ms. Sorey was not following too closely and when she attempted to stop her defective brakes failed and she collided with Mr. Y. Mee. Although it might appear to everyone else Ms. Sorey was negligent, she clearly was not. (Presuming she hadn’t failed to heed a recall warning – or had any prior warning her brakes were failing).

Because a police officer is not an arbitrator her job was not to decide the degree of fault vis-à-vis defective brakes. Following too closely – too bad here’s a ticket – tell it to the judge!

What you are left with then is a complicated albeit not rare occurrence. Let’s look:

A. Y. Mee sues Ima Sorey. Sorey’s insurance company pays Y. Mee. Y. Mee drops her lawsuit against Ima Sorey. Once the lawsuit is dismissed Sorey’s insurance company turns around and sues the manufacturer of the defective brakes for the amount they paid to Y. Mee. This is called “subrogation”. Ima Sorey’s insurance company subrogates against the brakes manufacturer.

B. Sorey’s insurance company doesn’t want to pay Y. Mee. They claim the collision was not their insured's fault but rather the manufacturer of the defective brakes. This is referred to as a “Crossclaim”. If that happens the lawsuit will now include Y. Mee against Ima Sorry AND Ima Sorey “Cross Claiming” against the manufacturer of the brakes.

The lawsuit will look like something like this:

Y. Mee vs. Ima Sorey and Ima Sorey vs. Brake Manufacturer.

What happens then is that months and months of Discovery go by before everything is finally straightened out and all parties are relatively happy with a settlement; or if there is no happy settlement then the lawsuit will continue. (There will be a bunch of chairs in that courtroom)!

(Sometimes one party will settle and the other not. That gets into “Non-Suits” and topics for another discussion).

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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