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When Vehicles Don't Keep Us Safe

Cars and trucks are coming out with newer and more advanced safety features every year. The goal is to reduce the number of accidents and to reduce the severity of injury when an accident occurs. Automobile manufacturers have made great strides over the years in reducing severe injuries and fatalities with safety devices like seat belts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes.

There are occasions, however, when car makers do not get it right, when they overlook a potential hazard, or worse, when they learn of a hazard but keep the information to themselves while they continue to sell the vehicles. When that happens, attorneys are often called upon to assist clients who’ve been injured or lost a loved one because of a defect in the vehicle. Here are a few areas of automotive product liability lawyers are involved with.


Crashworthiness is a concept involving an automobile’s ability to protect its occupants during a crash.

We’ve all seen the footage of test dummies being hurled down a track behind the wheel and crashing into a wall. Measurements are then taken to see how dummies would have fared were they real people in a real crash. There are several things that need to work together to keep people safe in a crash. The airbags need to deploy when appropriate. Seat belts need to engage. Flammable substances in vehicles need to be kept away from sources of fire ignition to keep the car from catching fire. The frame of the vehicle needs to hold firm to keep people from being crushed. The crumple zone of a car needs to absorb the force of the impact so all of it is not felt by the passengers. These and other factors go into making a vehicle crashworthy. When one of these systems fails, people can get hurt or killed. Cases involving crashworthiness involve one of these systems failing and a passenger that should have been kept safe during a crash being severely injured or killed as a result.

Design and manufacturing failures that cause accidents

While driver error is often a cause of a crash, sometimes the vehicle itself can cause the crash.

Vehicles can be designed too top-heavy or too narrow and rollover while being maneuvered on the road. Ignition switches can fail and cause the vehicle to turn off, causing the driver to lose the ability to brake and steer. Computer and mechanical issues can cause sudden acceleration of a vehicle without input from the driver. These are a few ways that the vehicle itself can cause an accident instead of the driver.

Autonomous driving feature failures

An emerging safety feature on vehicles involves the vehicle sensing dangers and either warn the driver or intervening on its own to avoid a problem.

Lane assist technology, blind spot recognition, adaptive cruise control, and automatic braking are a few of the modern advances in safety technology. Some companies are beginning to take these technologies to the next level and test autonomous-driving cars where the car even drives itself. As these new areas of safety features advance, they will not be without their errors and problems. As much planning goes into these technologies, they are going to have to continuously be updated to meet the demands of actual real-world driving. Recent news reports show that an autonomously driven car hit and killed a pedestrian. As we come to rely more and more on these vehicles to assist in driving safely, flaws in the designs are going to continue to emerge when they fail in the real world and cause injuries and fatalities.

When an accident occurs with serious injuries or death, it is always a good idea to have an attorney evaluate whether the vehicle failed in some way to protect its occupants. Many law firms, including ours, will evaluate such a case and pursue it on a contingency fee basis, which means that there is no charge to the client unless we are able to make a recovery for them. Should you or a family member find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a death or serious injury involving a motor vehicle crash, it is important to act quickly to protect your rights and evaluate whether the vehicle failed in some way.

The automobile product liability attorneys at Jinks, Crow & Dickson have years of experience investigating and pursuing cases against automobile manufacturers. Whether the vehicle causes the crash or fails to protect its occupants during a crash, we have a team of accident attorneys and experts that are able to sort through the data, reconstruct accidents, and help hurting families pursue claims when a vehicle has failed to keep someone safe.


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