There are several legal theories of liability available in defective motor vehicle cases. These include:
Additional legal arguments may be available to you depending on the particular circumstances of your case. (To learn more, read Nolo's article Defective Product Claims: Theories of Liability.)
You will have to prove three things in order to win your lawsuit:
In products liability cases involving motor vehicles, the outcome often comes down to the third issue listed above. One of the most common defenses raised by the vehicle manufacturer in such cases is that it was the plaintiff's poor or reckless driving -- not the vehicle itself -- that is to blame for the injuries. (For a more detailed discussion of what you must prove in defective product claims in general, read Nolo's article Proving a Defective Product Liability Claim.)
If the vehicle at issue involved a mass-produced defect or a dangerous design, you may be able to band together with other injured people and file a class action lawsuit.
In some cases, a class action may already have been filed in connection with the particular vehicle defect involved in your case (the class action filed in connection with allegedly defective tires on certain Pontiac GTO models is one recent example), and you may have the option of joining that already-existing lawsuit. Joining an existing class action has several advantages:
You also have the option of not joining an existing class action and bringing your own lawsuit instead. This may be appropriate if the nature of your injuries or damages are substantially different from those of other members of the class action, or if there are special circumstances in your case.
Consider consulting with a lawyer to find out if there is an already-existing class action concerning the defective vehicle involved in your case, and if so, whether it is advisable for you to join that class action. (If there is an already-existing class action, consider contacting the lawyers for the class directly; they will likely be very interested in talking with you.) Such initial consultations are usually free of charge.
The legal and mechanical issues in defective car cases are typically complex and highly technical. If you wish to consult with a lawyer (and perhaps even one who specializes in motor vehicle cases), read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer. Or, go to Nolo's Lawyer Directory for a list of personal injury attorneys in your geographical area (click on the "Types of Cases" and "Work History" tabs to find out about the lawyer's experience, if any, with products liability cases in general and motor vehicle cases in particular).
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