The doors in a car must secure the occupants and prevent them from coming out of a moving vehicle. Additionally, they also act as a barrier, especially when an accident happens, minimizing the impact of a crash. When the latch is not functioning correctly, upon impact, the door is likely to open, and the occupants may be ejected out.
Every person that purchases a vehicle believes it to be safe and that the manufacturers took enough care to ensure their safety when in the car. Unfortunately, when you are desperate for the door latch to work, it can fail, posing a danger to the vehicle occupants. When an accident occurs, the injuries sustained can get enhanced when the lock fails. Sometimes the door can open by itself without any impact, becoming a danger to the occupants. When injured as a result of a defective door latch, you can receive damages from the vehicle manufacturer. Speak to the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney to guide you in getting your rightful compensation.
Types of Door Latch Failures and Defects
Different defects in the car door can result in its malfunctioning. Some of the flaws are found in:
- Locks and latches – These parts are made to keep the door closed securely, and by use of a handle, they allow for its opening. The defects associated with locks or latches include their jamming, failure to stay secured, or connected and failing to open.
- Remote rod – This is the part that connects the latch to the door handle. Some defects in rods include having them broken, twisted, or distorted. When the rod malfunctions, it becomes a challenge to close or open the door to a vehicle.
- Door handles – When one wants to get in or out of a car, they use the door handle. A handle can be defective when broken or is malfunctioning. As a result, the occupants of the vehicle cannot control the door to perform the function they desire.
- Door structure or hatch – For the proper functioning of the door, the manufacturer designs it with internal mechanisms to allow that. The structure and hatch protect these mechanisms. If the design of the hatch and door is poor or weak, the likelihood of the latches, locks, and remote rods to be faulty is high.
When the vehicle door has problems, it prevents passengers or its occupants from being in control of the door’s functioning and positioning. Due to this, some situations may arise that are a danger to the vehicle occupants. Some of these situations are:
- The sudden and unexpected opening of the door while in motion and also when involved in an accident,
- The vehicle occupants can get trapped, and to let them out will require the use of specialized tools.
- The ejection of the occupants from the vehicle while it is moving or when it crashes. When this happens, it often leads to death.
What Causes Defects on Door Latches
Car door latch defects can be because of various factors. Some common factors include:
- Inadequate or incorrect door design
- Manufacturing the car doors using substandard materials
- Making mistakes or using shortcuts in the making of the door
- Manufacturer’s failure to test the safety of the door before releasing it into the market
- When the manufacturer fails in issuing correct instructions on how to use the door correctly and the risks involved if the door is used wrongly.
When the above factors result in defective vehicle doors, different parties can be blamed if injuries are sustained out of this. These entities include:
- Manufacturer of the specific vehicle,
- The particular vehicle engineers
- Different equipment manufacturers
- Individuals or entities tasked with testing the safety of the vehicle doors.
- Auto shops if they interfered with the car door latch as they serviced it or repaired it.
What Injuries Can Result When a Vehicle Door Latch is Defective
As discussed above, various risks accompany defective or faulty vehicle door latches. A vehicle occupant can also sustain multiple injuries due to the faulty door latch. These injuries include:
- Lesions or abrasions – When a passenger or vehicle occupant falls out of a moving vehicle, their skin will come into direct contact with the road surface. If the car was not moving at high speeds, these are the type of injuries they may suffer from, which are skin deep. The injuries are easier to treat and less costly as well.
- Broken or fractured bones – When the impact of falling off the vehicle is forceful, the victim may sustain fractures or broken bones. Sometimes, surgical procedures are required to treat these injuries, among other treatments. The cost of treating these injuries and other damages can be higher than is covered by a personal insurance policy. This may prompt the victim under Florida laws to seek compensation from the party responsible for the faulty door latch.
- Head injuries – Typically, vehicle occupants don’t have protective clothing like a helmet. When the door gives way due to a faulty latch, the occupant may crash against the hard road with their head. The impact can be significant that it causes traumatic injuries to the head. Treating these injuries in most cases is costly, with many procedures required. The healing time can also be lengthy, with some persons not recovering from the trauma. Most head injuries are catastrophic. When injuries are significant in Florida, the victim is allowed to seek damages from the responsible party.
- Spinal cord injuries – These types of damages affect the spine and the nervous system. When a vehicle occupant falls from a moving car due to a faulty latch, they can land on their back, sustaining severe injuries. These injuries often cause paralysis, either partially or permanently. As the injuries and their consequences are severe, the victim can seek damages from the party responsible for the faulty door latch.
- Lost Limbs – Falling from a moving vehicle almost always results in severe injuries. Having your leg or arm amputated is not a minor injury. When this happens, the victim will require a prosthetic limb to replace the lost one. Unfortunately, prosthetic limbs are not permanent but require periodic replacement. This is costly to the victim requiring compensation for the costs of treatment and the artificial limb.
The Federal government has implemented car safety standards, yet accidents due to faulty door latches keep happening. According to the rules, vehicles are required to get tested to ascertain the crashworthiness of car door latches. These regulations were established around the 1970s, with numerous revisions having been made.
According to the regulations, a vehicle door must have the ability to support a weight thirty times that of the force of gravity when a crash happens.
Seeking Claims Due to a Faulty Car Door Latch
Individuals that sustain injuries because of defective car door latches in Florida have to first turn to their insurance providers for damages. However, fault is always determined in an accident to establish the party responsible for the accident. When faulty door latches are part of or are the reason, one sustains injuries, the manufacturer of the car or door is held liable when the injuries are significant.
Once your cover is exhausted, your lawyer can claim damages on your behalf based on the Florida law on strict liability. Based on the statute, a defective car door latch can be due to:
- Flaws in the design of the door
- Manufacturing errors
- Inadequate information about the door’s functionality
- Insufficient instructions on how to use the doors
A failure or fault in the car door latch happens when:
- The door latch declines to close entirely or secure the door and
- When the system of the door latch is outdated
What Compensation is Available When One Suffers Injuries Due to Defective Latches
Following an accident where a defective car door latch contributed to the injuries, the victim receives both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are those a victim incurs as a result of the injuries, while punitive damages are awarded as a form of punishing the responsible party.
When getting compensatory damages, the victim receives both the financial and non-financial costs. These damages are:
- Medical Expenses – When one gets hurt in a crash, they will seek treatment for the injuries. The cost of all the procedures and drugs involved in the treatment of the injuries are compensable. In Florida, however, because of the no-fault rule, a victim has first to seek compensation from their cover. When the injuries are significant such that their coverage cannot compensate for the damages, then the losses are requested from the entity at fault.
- Lost wages – As one heals from the injuries sustained, they most likely are unable to go to work. Their employer will not pay them for the days not worked, and as a result, they lose their wages for the days taken to heal. Fortunately, under the law, one can receive damages for the income they lost during the time of healing.
- Lost earning capacity – When injuries are catastrophic, the victim may be unable to work for the rest of their lives. This means they lose the earnings they would have made in their lives if they were not injured. The law allows for these victims to receive compensation for the income denied due to the injuries.
- Disfigurement or lost limb – Some injuries can result in the loss of a body part. When this happens, the victim suffers permanent disfigurement and will require a prosthetic part to replace the lost one. Other injuries can cause the person to get disfigured, requiring reconstructive surgery. The value of the limb lost is estimated and refunded, and the cost for the procedures needed.
- Wrongful death – If a door opens as one is in motion, an occupant can get thrown from the moving vehicle. This can result in another car running them over, or the victim hits the road surface forcefully, leading to their death. When death occurs, the victim’s family can pursue damages with the responsible party; in this case, the party responsible for the faulty door latch.
- Pain and Suffering – When a person is recovering from injuries, they will go through pain and will suffer before they get back to their usual selves. The cost of the pain and suffering is arrived at, and the victim receives compensation for it.
- Funeral and burial costs – When a person dies because of a faulty door, the family or their estate suffers losses in their burial and funeral arrangements. These costs are compensable according to the compensation regulations in Florida.
The amount one person receives in compensation varies from one victim to the other. The determining factor is the value of damages because they differ depending on the injuries sustained. The victim can also receive punitive damages from the defendant in a claim lawsuit. Punitive damages are usually awarded as a punishment to the party responsible for the faulty door latch. This acts as deterrence and a lesson to other possible offenders to be more mindful of the safety of vehicle occupants.
Proving Fault in Product Liability Case
When one sustains injuries due to the malfunctioning of a product, they quickly get compensated for the costs they incur compared to those from different sources. The specific rules and theories that have been developed to deal with product liability make this possible.
When one incurs losses, they can recover damages from the distributor or manufacturer through establishing negligence, the theory of strict liability, or breach of warranty. In proving fault concerning product liability, one must adhere to the strict liability theory.
Understanding Strict Liability Theory
Ordinarily, for an entity to be held accountable for losses incurred, one must show their carelessness. Showing their recklessness or carelessness and how it leads to your injuries is critical. Unfortunately, it is not easy, and it is expensive to prove the negligence of a manufacturer in making the defective car door latch.
It is, however, unreasonable for a driver or occupant in a vehicle to prove that the manufacturer of the faulty door latch had a system of checking for safety before the car leaves the factory. Additionally, it is unrealistic to expect a consumer of a product to establish the manufacturer’s responsibility in making the faulty latch. A consumer is also unable to inspect every product they buy before using it to check for functionality or danger.
Due to these reasons, among others, there was a need to develop a strict liability theory. According to the theory, a victim can seek damages from the manufacturer of the product. In this case, the driver or passenger does not have to show the manufacturer’s or distributor’s negligence to recover damages.
When injuries are sustained because of a product, the victims are entitled to recover damages. The manufacturer of the defective car door latch is held liable. The seller of the car with this defect can also be held accountable when they are the appointed distributor of the vehicle.
Proving Fault According to Strict Liability
Despite the manufacturers or distributors' measures in ensuring the items they make or sell are safe for the consumer, the law does not require determining negligence to show fault. However, for the claim to stick, specific conditions must be met that include:
- The door latch had a dangerous defect that could have been avoided. The fault in the door latch was the reason for the damages or injuries. This defect in the car door latch may have been because of its design, or manufacture, or handling, or shipping.
- The defective product was used as it should, and despite this, it caused the injuries.
- The door latch had not undergone any significant change from when it left the manufacturer. When a change happens, it is likely to affect its functionality.
Proving Manufacturer’s Fault
Usually, every person expects the makes and designs of vehicles to be safe. Sadly, this is not always the case. Sometimes, vehicles are released to be sold before all the tests necessary in proving its safety are completed. Testing for vehicle safety and that of its parts is critical before selling it.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), some accidents are because of defective parts in a car. The defects are claimed to be the reason for injuries and deaths when an accident occurs. When the manufacturer is accused of releasing to the market a vehicle with defective parts like the door latch, they are held responsible for any injuries that result from it.
Safety Obligation by Vehicle Manufacturers
When a vehicle is released from assembling, the expectations are that it is safe to be used. A well made and designed car is crashworthy if an accident occurs. Other components like car door latches are also expected to be manufactured safely and to function as intended.
When designing or testing shortcuts are taken, a manufacturer is usually trying to increase their returns. They try to get the car to the market within the shortest time to receive returns to their investment. Because of this, some parts do not get tested like the door latch, resulting in defects.
According to the NHTSA, a manufacturer must report any defects within five days from when they get discovered. Unfortunately, this is not adhered to by all manufacturers. Some manufacturers slowly respond to these errors or delay in addressing them. Recalling of vehicles from the market or parts is complicated and expensive. In some cases, when a product is getting recalled, some people can have bought it, and accidents could have happened.
Manufacturers have paid millions in damages for withholding information on defective products from consumers. When the NHTSA carries an investigation, it can ask for a recall of vehicles or parts made by a particular manufacturer. A lawsuit can also force the manufacturer to recall as well. The manufacturer even bears the cost of rectifying the problem.
When Awareness of the Defect Becomes the Manufacturer’s Defense
When strict liability is used to seek damages, the manufacturer or distributor can defend themselves against the claim. If you knew the car door latch was defective and you kept using it without reporting it, your application can get denied.
However, the manufacturers must prove you knew the faultiness of the door latch before the crash happened. The manufacturer’s insurance provider will carry out investigations to avoid compensating the victim of the damages. Your description of the door latch and your use can also be used to deny your costs.
Filing Your Claim Against the Car Manufacturer
Following an accident where a faulty door latch increased the injuries sustained, you can recover damages due to the product liability law. Having an attorney specializing in personal injury is an advantage because of their understanding of compensation law.
Insurance companies don’t readily pay claims because they must make profits and protect their clients against costs. When your attorney presents a request to the insurance provider of the manufacturer, they may accept to pay, deny or submit a counter offer. If the negotiations between your lawyer and the insurance adjuster do not bear fruits, your attorney can file a petition to seek damages in court.
During the trial, your attorney must prove certain elements to win your case. These include:
- You incurred significant injuries that resulted in losses.
- That the door latch to your car is faulty or defective
- And as a result of this defect, you sustained these injuries.
- You used the car door as it is supposed to.
Proving Your Injuries
Following a crash, a lot of things happen, while others go wrong. A malfunctioning door latch can fly open upon impact instead of securing the occupant in the car. When this happens, the victim can get thrown from the vehicle and sustain worse injuries. When the police come to the scene, they generate a report detailing the accident and the cause. This is an essential document in proving one was a victim of an accident where the car door malfunctioned and resulted in more injuries.
Photos of the accident scene are also critical in proving injuries. A medical report must also accompany your claim to the insurance adjuster. If there was a witness to the accident, getting a written statement from them also helps your case.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Typically, an accident is devastating, and more so when there are situations that enhance the injuries victims sustain. A defective car door latch is a dangerous situation because the door fails in one of its functions to protect the vehicle occupants. When the injuries sustained are substantial, Florida allows the injured to seek damages from the party responsible for the faulty door. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we are passionate about pursuing compensation on your behalf. Contact us at 904-800-7557 to further discuss your case.