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Mechanical Failure FAQ

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1)  What are common causes of mechanical failures that can cause car accidents?

 

Common mechanical failures that can lead to car and truck accidents include:

 

  • Tire failure

  • Brake Failure

  • Steering and suspension system defects

  • Engine breakdowns

 

Although less common, other mechanical failures that are emerging can include faulty:

 

  • Airbag failure,

  • Inadequate windshield wipers and/or motor failure,

  • Dangerous gas tank placement,

  • Defective/sticking gas peddles,

  • Defective ignition systems,

  • Malfunctioning or burntout headlights and taillights, and

  • Ineffective crash avoidance systems.

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2)  What are the legal claims that can be pursued for mechanical defects?

 

The legal claims that can be pursued for a mechanical defect will vary, depending on the at-fault party.  Generally, they include claims of product liability and negligence such as:

 

  • Defective Design;

  • Defective Manufacture;

  • Defective Warning of Risk of Danger;

  • Defective Inspection and Maintenance;

  • Defective Repair;

  • Breach of Warranty;

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3)  Who can be responsible for a mechanical defect?

 

Depending on the type of mechanical failure that led to the collision, as well as the type of vehicles involved, one or several people or entities could be responsible. 

 

This includes:

 

  • Vehicle Driver and/or Owner (most common in big rig and tractor trailer accidents);

  • Mechanic and/or Automotive Technician;

  • Product and/or Component Designer, Manufacturer, and/or Seller

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4)  How are mechanical failures proven?

 

Depending on the type of claim being pursued and against what defendant, mechanical failures are proven much in the same way as product liability cases, including through:

 

  • Vehicle maintenance records;

  • Vehicle collision history (salvage title, etc.);

  • Scene inspection;

  • Vehicle Inspection (and on-board computer data);

  • Design and manufacture specs;

  • Feasibility of alternate designs;

  • Industry standards and guideline violations;

  • Federal regulations and testing standards/violations;

  • Warning labels and advertisement materials;

  • Prior similar incidents involving the defect (if any);

  • Recall history;

  • Consumer Protection Agency reports;

  • Experts (mechanical and automotive engineers; accident reconstructionist, etc.)

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5)  Why is it important to investigate for a mechanical defect?

 

It’s important to promptly investigate for a mechanical defect immediately after a collision because this evidence is often the first to be lost.

 

For instance, after a major motor vehicle collision, the vehicles are usually sent to the junkyard to be destroyed.  These vehicles and their component parts need to be inspected by trained experts, data from the on-board computer systems needs to be collected, and the vehicles need to be preserved for future inspection and testing as new issues arise.

 

Also, the scene needs to be inspected by a trained expert before the evidence is lost.  Accident scenes often contain important circumstantial evidence that can help support a mechanical defect theory.

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6)  What statutes and regulations could pertain to a mechanical failure claim?

 

Statutes and regulations that could pertain to a mechanical failure claim in Georgia can include:

 

  • 49 C.F.R. 396.3 (Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance Regulations for Passenger Carriers);

  • 49 C.F.R. 396.7 (Prohibition from Operating Commercial Vehicle that is Likely to Breakdown);

  • 49 C.F.R. 396.11 (Driver Post Trip Inspection Requirements);

  • 49 C.F.R. 396.17 (Annual Inspection Requirement for Commercial Vehicles);

  • O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11 (Product Liability Statute);

  • O.C.G.A.  40-8-20 to 35 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Lights);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-8-50 to 54 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Brakes);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-8-70 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Horns);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-8-72 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Mirrors);

  • O.C.G.A 40-8-73 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Windshield Wipers);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-8-74 & 75 (Commercial Vehicle Requirements for Tires and Tire Covers);

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7)  What are common tire failures that cause car accidents?

 

Common causes of tire failures that are known to cause car accidents include sudden blow-outs or loss of traction or control (due to worn out and balding tires).

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8)  What are common causes of blow outs for tires?

 

Common causes of tire blowouts often include over-inflating or under-inflating tire, debris in the roadway, dry rot, sudden temperature change, and excessive wear and tear.

 

These can lead to sudden loss of control of the vehicle, causing injury.

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9)  What are common causes of brake failures?

 

Common causes for brake failures are known to be worn-out or faulty brake lines, a malfunctioning anti-lock brake system, worn brake pads and brake discs.

 

Any one of these can cause a reasonable driver to lose control of their vehicle and cause a collision by increasing stopping time and distance.

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10)  What are common causes of steering system defects?

 

Less common than tire and brake defects, malfunctions with a vehicle’s steering system have still been known to lead to preventable car accidents. 

 

Common causes of steering system defects include defective or worn ball-joints, loss of steering fluid, broken or bent steering relay, broken or miscalibrated transmissions that affect acceleration, and similar issues.

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11)  What is meant by engine malfunction?

 

Common causes of tire failures that are known to cause car accidents include sudden blow-outs or loss of traction or control (due to worn out and balding tires).

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12)  What are signs that an engine is going bad or malfunctioning?

 

There are several obvious ways that a driver/owner of a vehicle can be shown to be aware of an likely engine malfunction. 

 

These include:

 

  • Illuminated “check engine” light;

  • Unusual or unexpected sounds coming from the vehicle;

  • Sudden decrease in fuel efficiency;

  • Uneven and fluctuating RPM’s; or

  • Unexpected engine stalling.

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13)  What causes a headlight/taillight malfunction?

 

The most common cause of headlight or taillight malfunction is usually attributable to the negligence of the vehicle owner or driver. 

 

Usually, a vehicle owner or driver is aware of burnt-out or malfunctioning lights but do nothing to address the problem.

 

Older vehicles are more prone to headlight or taillight malfunction, which is often ignored.

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14)  How does windshield wiper malfunction occur?

 

Windshield wiper malfunction usually occurs in one of two broad scenarios:

 

  1. the windshield wiper motor is broken and the windshield wipers don’t work at all; or

  2. the windshield wiper motor works, but the actual windshield wipers are ineffective.

 

Ineffective windshield wipers usually result from dry rot due  to exposure over time.  Or, they’re just worn out. 

 

Instead of removing rain from the windshield, these wipers make the problem worse by causing streaking and increasing glare.

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15)  What are symptoms of windshield wiper defects?

 

Symptoms of windshield wiper defects include:

 

  • Streaking on the windshield;

  • Chattering and skipping on the windshield;

  • Poor-to-no contact with the windshield (bent or broken wiper); or

  • Splitting rubber inserts on the windshield wiper.

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16)  What are examples of airbags defects?

 

Some examples of airbag defects include:

 

  • Failure to deploy when it should have;

  • Delayed airbag deployment;

  • Unnecessary airbag deployment (i.e. very minor, rear-ended vehicle);

  • More recently, Takata airbag recall due to defect in the design.

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17)  What are examples of seatbelt defects?

 

Seatbelt defects are especially dangers, and examples include:

 

  • Unlatching due to force of the collision;

  • Failure for the strap to tighten;

  • Material defects in the seatbelt webbing, causing it to brake;

  • Improper mounting and assembly of the seatbelt.

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18)  What are a repair shop/mechanic’s responsibility?

 

Generally, an auto repair mechanic has a responsibility not to perform repairs negligently.  This standard of care can include:

 

  • Performing repair work in a careful, skill and professional manner;

  • Utilizing the skills and knowledge of mechanics in the field of vehicle repair;

  • Inspecting and testing the vehicle repairs for safety;

  • Refraining from performing unnecessary repairs.

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19)  What are examples of negligence repair work?

 

Examples of negligent repair work can be limitless, but some common examples include:

 

  • Failing to fully repair broken or worn vehicle parts;

  • Using after-market and used replacement parts that are defective;

  • Installing an incorrect part;

  • Failing to inspect and test repaired parts;

  • Performing the wrong repair or maintenance requested or needed;

  • Improperly modifying the vehicle; or

  • Failing to remove objects and tools.

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