Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic and challenging experience. If you believe your accident was caused by a defect in the vehicle you were driving or riding in, you may have a product liability claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer. This type of claim alleges that the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect, manufacturing defect, or failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions about the vehicle’s risks.
Pursuing a product liability claim against a large auto manufacturer can be complex. However, by understanding the basic process and requirements, you can evaluate whether you may have a viable claim after your Utah car accident. Here is an overview of how to bring a product liability claim against a vehicle manufacturer in Utah. Our personal injury lawyer in Salt Lake City is prepared to help you file a claim against the party liable for your damages.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Claim
The first step is to gather evidence to prove that a defect in the vehicle caused your injuries. Some key evidence you may need includes:
- Accident report and investigation records: The police report, statements from witnesses, and any additional investigations can help show what occurred.
- Vehicle maintenance records: Records showing proper maintenance help rule out driver error or failure to properly service the vehicle.
- Vehicle photographs and inspections: Pictures of the damaged vehicle and inspections noting any mechanical defects support the defective condition.
- Similar complaints or defects: Recalls, service bulletins, warranty claims, and complaints filed by other consumers help establish a potential defect.
- Medical records: Your medical records document the injuries you sustained in the accident.
- Expert reviews: Experts such as accident reconstructionists, engineers, and doctors may be needed to prove the defect and causation.
Send a Demand Letter to the Manufacturer
Before filing a lawsuit, your attorney will likely send a demand letter detailing your claim and demanding compensation. The letter serves to notify the manufacturer of the claim and potentially resolve it before litigation.
The demand letter will:
- Outline the defects in the vehicle and how the defects caused your accident and injuries.
- Include evidence supporting the vehicle’s defective condition.
- Demand a settlement amount to compensate you for damages.
- Set a deadline for the manufacturer to respond.
This gives the manufacturer a chance to settle the claim out of court. If they deny liability or don’t respond, a lawsuit is the next step.
File a Product Liability Lawsuit in Utah
In Utah, product liability claims alleging strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty are governed by the Utah Product Liability Act. To prevail, you must prove:
- The vehicle had a defective condition that made it unreasonably dangerous.
- The defective condition existed at the time the vehicle left the manufacturer’s possession.
- The defect caused the injuries sustained in the accident.
- Damages resulted from the injuries caused by the defect.
Lawsuits against vehicle manufacturers typically allege strict product liability for design defects, manufacturing defects, or failure to warn of risks. Your attorney can help determine the strongest legal theories for your case.
Follow Utah’s Rules and Deadlines
Utah has specific rules and deadlines that must be followed when filing a lawsuit, including:
- Statute of Limitations: In Utah, you have two years from the date of injury to file a product liability lawsuit.
- Court Filing: The lawsuit must be properly filed and served on the defendant. Utah uses a statewide e-filing system.
- Case Schedule: Utah utilizes rules and scheduling orders to ensure cases move efficiently through required phases of litigation. Failing to meet deadlines can risk dismissal.
Engage in Discovery
During discovery, each side gains information from the other to support their legal case. Common discovery methods include:
- Written questions: Interrogatories and requests for production of documents seek relevant information.
- Depositions: Oral testimony is taken under oath from parties and witnesses.
- Experts: Retaining qualified expert witnesses to inspect the vehicle and apply technical knowledge.
- Motions: Seeking court orders compelling discovery if the defendant is uncooperative.
Thorough discovery establishes the facts and evidence necessary to prove your claim in court.
Attempt Settlement Negotiations
Many product liability claims settle out of court through negotiations between the attorneys. Settlement benefits both sides by avoiding the risks and expenses of a trial.
To leverage settlement, your lawyer will:
- Assess the value of your claim based on damages and verifiable defects.
- Negotiate with the manufacturer for a fair settlement offer.
- Present evidence demonstrating your ability to prove the claim.
- Prepare for trial if needed to motivate reasonable settlement terms.
If agreements fail, the court may order mediation or a settlement conference before trial.
Proceed to Trial if Necessary
If a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to a jury trial. Your attorney will present evidence and testimony to prove:
- The vehicle had a defect that posed safety risks to consumers.
- The manufacturer failed to remedy the defect or provide adequate warnings.
- The defect caused the accident and your resulting harm.
- You sustained damages from lost income, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.
- The manufacturer will argue there was no defect, or that driver error caused the accident.
If the jury decides in your favor, they will award damages. The court enters a judgment on the verdict.
Get Compensated for Your Damages
If you win at trial or receive a settlement, the compensation generally aims to make you whole. Typical damages in a product liability case include:
- Medical expenses from accident injuries
- Lost income and reduced earning capacity
- Loss of consortium damages for impact on family relationships
- Property damage if the defective vehicle was damaged
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Punitive damages in egregious cases
- Attorney fees and costs
Receiving fair compensation allows recovery and stability after the disruption caused by the accident and injuries.
Dealing with the consequences of a defective vehicle can be overwhelming, but legal help is available. Monge & Associates has offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia, to assist accident victims in obtaining compensation after their lives are upended by unsafe vehicles. With extensive experience handling product liability claims against large automakers, our attorneys can thoroughly investigate your accident, demonstrate the vehicle defects, and fight for maximum recovery in or out of court.
Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident involving a potentially defective vehicle in Utah, the experienced defective product attorneys at Monge & Associates are here to help. Call now at (888) 477-0597 for a free consultation on your legal options.