Driving is an integral part of life for most people, and automakers have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are safe for consumers. However, sometimes serious injuries or even deaths occur due to vehicle defects or negligence on the part of manufacturers. When automakers fail to uphold their duty of care, victims and families may seek justice by filing a Salt Lake City personal injury lawsuit to hold these large companies accountable. This article examines the process of taking legal action against automakers after serious accidents in Utah.
In any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against an automaker, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff (the individual filing the claim) to establish liability or responsibility of the defendant (the manufacturer). There are two main avenues to prove legal liability in vehicle defect cases:
If there is evidence that the vehicle was inherently dangerous or defective in its design from the outset, the automaker can be found liable. Common passenger vehicle design flaws include:
- Deficient occupant restraint systems like faulty seat belts or airbags
- Weak roofs prone to crushing in rollovers
- Inadequate structure leading to excessive intrusion during collisions
- Poor seat back design allowing front seats to collapse backwards
- Insufficient bumpers and front/rear crash compatibility
Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defective design made the vehicle unreasonably dangerous for ordinary driving situations. Expert witnesses are often used to assess safety engineering standards and whether the vehicle design failed to meet reasonable public expectations. Cost-benefit analyses can reveal if known improvements or safer alternative designs were available at the time but rejected to cut costs. Evidence that manufacturers traded consumer safety for profits strengthens defect claims.
Even if the original design is not deemed defective, liability can arise if the automaker failed to identify and rectify issues through rigorous quality control and testing before cars leave factories or get issued recall repairs. Specific negligent actions like utilizing substandard vehicle components from cost-cutting suppliers, improper vehicle assembly procedures leading to missing or faulty parts, lack of robust inspection protocols allowing dangerous problems to be missed during production, or delayed reaction to known defects could demonstrate blameworthiness.
Plaintiffs would also have to show that the manufacturer’s negligence directly led to injuries or deaths that would have otherwise been prevented. Expert analysis of the mechanical root cause, accident reconstruction simulations, and metallurgical studies of failed components could prove that connection.
In addition to clear evidence of defects themselves, victims must demonstrate that the injuries sustained align directly to the design flaws or negligence issues using accident reconstruction technology, medical reports, biomechanical engineering and more.
Statute of Limitations
It’s important to take legal action promptly, because Utah has a statute of limitations on personal injury and wrongful death claims. For adults, there is generally a four-year deadline from the date of injury or death to file a lawsuit. For minors, the statute of limitations is tolled or paused until they turn 18 years old. Consulting with an attorney quickly ensures claims are submitted on time.
Economic damages like medical bills, lost wages if the victim is unable to work, funeral and burial costs, etc. can be recouped in these cases. Non-economic pain and suffering from the accident trauma, loss of companionship after a wrongful death, and reduced quality of life are also compensable damages. Punitive damages meant to punish the automaker are possible in situations where conduct was especially negligent or reckless.
Steps to Take After an Accident
- Seek immediate medical treatment, even for minor injuries as symptoms could worsen over time. Thoroughly document all diagnoses and medical expenses. Get copies of all test results, treatment notes, and discharge papers.
- Report the accident to insurance providers right away and cooperate with any investigations. However, avoid prematurely signing away rights or accepting initial settlement offers before consulting with an attorney.
- Contact an experienced Utah attorney as soon as possible to start investigating what went wrong. The lawyer can get the process started while you focus on your recovery.
- Preserve evidence like vehicle damage photos, police reports, eyewitness statements, video footage if available, etc. Your attorney can officially request to preserve the vehicle and defective parts.
- Compile proof of economic costs associated with the incident. Keep records of all injury-related costs including medical bills, prescriptions, medical equipment, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, etc.
- Document non-economic damages like emotional distress, trauma, grief, or reduced quality of life through journaling and witness statements.
- Avoid directly contacting the auto manufacturer yourself, as statements could be used against you. Let your attorney handle communications.
- Follow all doctor’s orders closely including rehabilitation regimens, taking prescription medications, and avoiding activities that could worsen injuries. Noncompliance can reduce injury claims.
- Consider seeking counseling or joining a support group to cope with psychological impacts like driving anxiety after an accident.
- Focus on your recovery but make note of any new symptoms or setbacks to discuss with your legal team and healthcare providers.
Key Factors in Automaker Lawsuits
Complex auto defect investigations require:
- Extensive discovery procedures including subpoenas of company documents, inspections of manufacturing facilities, test drives of similar vehicles, consulting with technical experts, and extensive deposition questioning of automaker representatives.
- Determining if the automaker had prior knowledge of the defect through reviews of internal communications and complaints. Proving willful negligence strengthens the case.
- Hiring specialists like accident reconstruction experts, biomechanical engineers, and medical doctors to prove physical forces in the crash caused specific injuries.
- Involving automotive industry experts to assess whether manufacturing or design practices failed to meet reasonable safety standards for the public.
- Partnering with qualified economists to project long-term earnings losses and future medical expenses stemming from permanent disabilities.
Taking on large automakers is an uphill battle, so it’s important to work with a law firm that has experience handling these complex cases and holding automakers accountable in Utah. Though money can never undo the damage of serious injury or tragic death of a loved one, financial recovery can provide stability and resources for victims and families to rebuild their lives.
The accidents that lead to injury and wrongful death lawsuits are always devastating and difficult experiences for victims and families. Automobile manufacturers have a responsibility to prevent these tragedies when possible. Though legal action cannot turn back time, holding automakers accountable can provide some sense of justice and closure.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a vehicle defect or automaker negligence in Utah, contact us today to explore your legal options. We have offices in 32 locations across 19 states including Utah, Colorado and Nebraska. You can call us on (888) 477-0597 for a free consultation.