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Proving liability in automobile design defect cases

Products liability claims can result from manufacturing defects or failures in providing adequate warnings on products sold to consumers. Some of the most dangerous defects, and those with the most widespread impact, are those involving motor vehicles. When a Louisiana resident is injured or killed due to a defective vehicle, the designer can be held accountable in a products liability lawsuit.

One unique aspect of defective vehicle claims is that victims do not have to prove that the car manufacturer was negligent or careless in order to establish liability. Such claims are subject to the doctrine of strict liability, which means the designer is liable if certain conditions are met. These conditions are that the vehicle had an unreasonably dangerous defect through design, manufacture or a failure to warn, and a consumer was injured as a result. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove the injury occurred while the vehicle was being used in its intended manner. Finally, the vehicle's performance must not have been altered substantially from its original sale condition. To bring a successful claim for a defective vehicle, all three of the above conditions must be proven.

Among the vehicle defects that may give rise to a products liability claim are structural issues with the body of the vehicle, electrical issues, steering problems, and issues with the brakes, among various others. Depending on the cause of the defect, those injured may pursue compensation from either the manufacturer, the seller or both. A recent trend in motor vehicle defect cases has been the awarding of punitive damages to injured victims. Punitive damages awards may encourage vehicle makers to reconsider the cost benefit analysis of fixing a defect or paying out potential legal damages.

Source: Findlaw, "Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuits," accessed on May 3, 2015

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