Products Liability in the Automotive Industry

By Peter DePaolis

As consumers, we expect the products we buy to undergo rigorous testing, to be constructed with quality materials, and to be designed with the utmost safety in mind. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. All too often, products enter the marketplace with design and manufacturing defects that pose serious risks to consumers. Defective auto parts are especially dangerous, as they can result in deadly car accidents. If a defective auto part has seriously injured you or killed your loved one, our experienced team of attorneys can help.

Examples of Defective Auto Parts

Any vehicle component has the potential to be defective if it is improperly designed or manufactured. Examples include:

  • Airbags
  • Seatbelts
  • Door latches
  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Gas tanks
  • Fuel systems
  • Seatbacks
  • Roofs
  • Car seats

Too many U.S. consumers have been injured and killed by occupant ejection, roof crush, fuel-fed fires, SUVs that are prone to rolling over, and vehicles with a lack of crashworthiness. Car manufacturers may be legally liable for injuries and deaths resulting from defective auto parts, especially if the company failed to warn about a product’s potential dangers and/or to provide proper instructions concerning its safe and intended use.

Toyota Recalls

Japanese automaker Toyota has been plagued by recalls in recent years. In late 2009, the company issued the largest recall in its history following a tragic San Diego car accident in which four family members were killed when a Lexus gas pedal became stuck, resulting in a fiery crash. The recall involved 3.8 million Lexus and Toyota vehicles at risk of unintended acceleration due to unsecured or incompatible floor mats causing the accelerator to stick. In January 2010, Toyota recalled another 2.3 million vehicles for potential gas pedal issues that were likely to occur with wear and tear.

Gas pedal problems are not the only trouble Toyota has had in recent years. In January 2011, the company recalled 1.7 million vehicles for various issues, including faulty fuel pumps and connecting pipes. Also in 2011, Toyota recalled 550,000 vehicles due to potential steering problems. In March 2012, a recall was issued for almost 500,000 Tacoma pickup trucks due to potential airbag issues, and another recall was issued for about 70,500 Camry sedans and 116,000 Venza SUVs with potentially faulty brake lights. In August, the company announced a recall of approximately 760,000 Rav4 SUVs and 18,000 Lexus HS 250h hybrids due to a risk for corrosion-related rear suspension arm failure. U.S. regulators are currently investigating reports of fires in the power window switches of certain Toyota models.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective auto part, contact a qualified Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia personal injury lawyer today to learn about your rights under products liability law.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.