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Defective Vehicle Can Turn Survivable Accident Deadly

There were more than 100 million vehicle recalls in the U.S. between January 2014 and May 2015 - including two of the largest vehicle recalls in history, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

At the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli, our Hartford car accident attorneys know that a defective vehicle or faulty auto parts can result in serious injuries to vehicle occupants, pedestrians and bicyclists. In fact, defective vehicles are responsible for more car accidents and crash injuries than many people realize.

Take the recent case of Rivera v. Cordova, Audi AG et al., a Texas trial court injury lawsuit that centered on the severe and permanent disabling injuries sustained by a 7-year-old boy in a rear-end accident.

His family recently won a $124 million lawsuit against Audi, the manufacturer of the vehicle, which reportedly contained a driver's seat safety defect.

According to court records of the case, the boy and his brother were seated in the back seat of his father's car. He had just picked them up after school. They weren't buckled in, as they should have been, and neither was their father. Still, it was a short drive home and the trio were stopped behind a school bus that was unloading passengers.

That's when it happened. A woman in a sport utility vehicle came barreling up behind them. She didn't stop and slammed into the back of their vehicle, where the two boys were seated. But while the boy's younger brother, sitting behind the passenger seat, was relatively unscathed, this little boy suffered traumatic brain injuries, partial paralysis and blindness.

According to later analysis, the father's seat fell backward onto the boy, and the father was thrown backward, his head colliding with his own son's.

The complaint later filed by the family asserted that the auto manufacturer knew the seat backs had this potential to fall backward in the event of a crash, but the firm considered it acceptable because the knees of a rear seat passenger would help to absorb some of that force. But this was a standard not used by any other car company, plaintiffs alleged. And further, there was no evidence the manufacturer tested the vehicles with a child car accident dummy to determine whether a child's knees could safely support the seat falling back.

To support the theory that it was the defective seat - and not primarily the rear-end impact - that caused the boy's injuries, plaintiffs pointed to the fact that the younger boy walked away relatively unscathed.

The car manufacturer countered that the father and son's failure to wear seat belts was a determinant factor in the boy's injuries.

Ultimately, jurors for the District Court of the 73rd District in Bexar County, Texas sided with plaintiff, finding the auto manufacturer was grossly negligent and awarding a total of $124 million. However, jurors did find the father had been 20 percent liable for the boy's injuries while the driver who rear-ended them was found 25 percent at-fault.

The comparative negligence by the father will reduce the overall damage award by 20 percent. That means the family would in theory receive $99 million, although it's unlikely the other driver will be able to pay her $31 million share of the verdict. If the verdict against the car manufacturer is upheld, the family will ultimately receive $31 million.

In any car accident lawsuit, the possibility of product liability should not be overlooked. Common vehicle defects include:

  • Airbag failure
  • Brake failure
  • Defective tires
  • Fuel system malfunctions
  • Faulty brake lights or headlights
  • Seat belt failure
  • Seat back failure
  • Door latch failure

If you suspect your injuries may have been due to a defective vehicle, we can help. While the statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits in Connecticut is 2 years, the statute of limitations on product liability cases is generally 3 years from the date of the incident or discovery, and under certain circumstances, up to 10 years.

Contact us today for a free consultation at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.

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If you were injured or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident in Boston, Worcester, Springfield or Holyoke, a personal injury lawyer can fight to help you obtain compensation you deserve. At the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone, serving Massachusetts, our personal injury attorneys have an impressive record of trial verdicts and settlements.