The semiconductor chip shortage slowed new vehicle production and increased demand for used automobiles, putting more older cars on the road. Automakers improvised and are shipping new vehicles without specific chip-dependent features.
As this shift in the automotive market unfolds, the full impact remains unknown. If a car experiences a defect, who is liable, and how can car owners protect themselves if a malfunction causes serious injury?
Automotive product defects and recalls are rising
The Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) prepares a yearly analysis of vehicle defect trends. OESA reported 341 safety recall campaigns for light vehicles during 2018, the highest on record to that point. The 2019 report anticipated greater potential financial and legal consequences for auto manufacturers as the population of older vehicles increases.
Product defects can cause lasting injury
A rush to produce vehicles to meet consumer demand could result in defective parts that cause accidents. If a flaw in manufacturing or design affects a driver’s ability to steer, speed up or brake, a significant accident could occur, leaving the manufacturer responsible for defects.
Vehicle computers and wiring are among items commonly listed as defective. Automobiles may also be prone to severe accidents from faulty airbags, seatbelts, tires or fuel systems. If a defective component causes a crash and severe harm, injured individuals may pursue a product liability claim.
For instance, an airbag may injure a vehicle occupant by deploying too quickly. Conversely, an accident may excessively impair occupants if airbags do not deploy at all. Either occurrence gives rise to a potential legal claim for the driver or passengers.
Product liability cases involve complicated legal considerations, and anyone who operates or occupies a vehicle does well to know their rights.