Most vehicle crashes are caused by driver error. However, mechanical failures can also cause crashes. This raises the issue: Who is responsible for this type of crash?
Let’s face it, when a crash occurs because of a mechanical failure, it is often the result of faulty brakes, particularly in large commercial trucks. If the brakes are not correct, it becomes almost impossible to stop an 80,000-pound piece of machinery. Other common reasons for mechanical failure accidents include:
* Faulty tires
* Improperly inflated tires
* Mismatched tires
* Faulty turn signals
* Broken taillights
* Brake line damage
* Damage to steering systems
Drivers are responsible for ensuring their vehicles receive the necessary maintenance and repairs required for safe performance. If a driver fulfills this responsibility and a mechanical failure occurs, the mechanic could hold liability for the crash. Drivers trust their mechanics to perform appropriate repairs in line with professional standards to fix and prevent problems when their vehicles are out on the road.
While some automotive shops post disclaimers absolving their businesses of liability, if a vehicle they work on is involved in an accident, these disclaimers may not be legally binding if challenged in court. For a mechanic or automotive repair shop to be held liable, you must be able to prove certain elements existed:
- The mechanic or repair shop owed you a duty of care, which is typically proven with evidence of a transaction between a customer and a repair shop.
- The mechanic or repair shop failed to uphold their duty by acting negligently.
- This negligence resulted in your accident.
- You suffered damages as a result of the accident (medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity and pain and suffering).
There are many potential examples of negligent repairs or vehicle maintenance:
- Purchasing or installing incorrect components
- The use of defective replacement parts when performing vehicle repairs
- Causing damage to any part of the vehicle while making repairs
- Making incorrect or unneeded repairs to vehicles
- Failure to identify the repairs a vehicle requires
- Allowing untrained or unqualified technicians to perform work on vehicles
- Illegal vehicle modifications
- Failure to remove debris and foreign objects from a vehicle
That leads me to my next question: What about employees at these large automobile parts chains, who wheel a cart into the parking lot and install parts onto your vehicle? What are their qualifications? How about training? Experience? Do they do everything necessary to diagnose the vehicle’s problem? Are they instructed to do everything necessary to diagnose the vehicle’s problem? Should these individuals be responsible for properly identifying the repairs that are necessary to fix a vehicle? Why not? Aren’t they essentially holding themselves out as a mechanic once they lift up the hood and say you need….?
For example, your car begins sputtering and you think it’s the battery. You take it to the big box chain and the employee agrees and replaces the battery. The employee does nothing else to determine if another issue exists or if the battery was even the problem. Should that box chain employee refer the customer to a qualified technician/mechanic/repair shop so a technician can diagnose the underlying problem based on the customer complaint. Depending on what specifically occurred in the moments leading up to the car sputtering, it really is unlikely the battery condition caused the car shutting down. Most likely it was an alternator, spark plugs and/or the engine. A customer (depending on the circumstances) should be made aware that the battery replacement might not be a fix and the car could be a hazard to drive. What if the car had an internal mechanical problem because of not having adequate compression in the cylinders? The customer would never know because nothing was done to evaluate the entire situation. Weeks later a catastrophic crash could occur because the real problem was not found!
If you were injured in a crash caused by mechanical failure, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Please give us a call at Bordas & Bordas to learn what legal options may be available for pursuing compensation in your situation.