If the automatic braking on a vehicle fails or malfunctions and a car accident results, a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the car may be brought. Product liability lawsuits are typically brought against the manufacturer and or distributor of a product that was either incorrectly designed or failed to work properly because of the way it was designed. If any component of a motor vehicle fails or has a design flaw, the motor vehicle manufacturer may be held responsible in a New Jersey court.
Product Liability Generally
The product liability act in New Jersey was passed in 1987 and is generally the cause of action for the failure of a product such as the automatic braking on a car failing. In order to establish that a product is generally unsafe or violates the product liability act, the plaintiff must establish that the product was either designed improperly or manufactured improperly so as to cause a violation of the product liability act and entitle the plaintiff to damages as a result of his or her injury. The plaintiff in a product liability action must generally establish that the product, in this specific circumstance, the motor vehicle, was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose (driving) because the vehicle’s automatic braking system was either improperly designed or manufactured.
Unintended Acceleration and Automatic Braking Failure
Automatic braking cases fall under a wider umbrella of automatic braking failures and unintended acceleration claims. As vehicles began to offer semi-autonomous driving, the driving public is beginning to rely upon the vehicle systems to function properly when the vehicle is in motion. One example of unintended acceleration and automatic braking failures is the adaptive cruise control systems that are now appearing in many vehicles. These systems use cameras and sensors to properly determine adequate following distance and speed that a vehicle should be traveling. If one of these systems is set by a driver and that system fails, resulting in a car accident, the manufacturer of the motor vehicle may be responsible if the plaintiff can establish that the system was either designed improperly or manufactured improperly in violation of the New Jersey Products Liability Act.
Auto-Pilot or semiautonomous driving may also give rise to more vehicle product malfunctions and more disputes over the cause of a crash. In these cases, analysis of the vehicle data in conjunction with the testimony of the driver and other individuals will likely be key evidence in determining who is at fault for the accident.
Failure to Warn
Another potential aspect of a product liability lawsuit is the allegation that the manufacturer of the product did not sufficiently warn plaintiffs of the potential danger of the product. In an automatic braking failure case, the allegation would likely involve a claim from the plaintiff that the car manufacturer did not properly and adequately warn of any limits or potential malfunctions of the braking system in the vehicle. Most motor vehicles today do come with some level of warning about the limitations of the systems therefore the adequacy of the warning will likely be the issue to be litigated in an automatic braking failure case.
Another issue or potential defense to a product liability lawsuit is when defendants or the maker of the product allege that the plaintiff was misusing the product or not using the product for its intended purpose. This defense could be raised in an automatic braking failure case. The manufacturer of the vehicle may allege the plaintiff was driving the vehicle too fast or was not operating the vehicle properly and safety and was therefore misusing the product under New Jersey law. Though this is an issue or defense that is typically raised by the manufacturer, the ultimate burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to affirmatively prove that he or she was using the product properly.
Comparative fault in a products liability case is a defense that can be raised by the manufacturer. If the automatic braking of a vehicle fails, the defense may raise this defense in alleging that the plaintiff was not paying attention or driving their vehicle properly and the happening of the accident was the fault of the plaintiff. To successfully raise this defense, the defendant must prove that plaintiff deliberately and knowingly acted in such a way as to create or materially increase a risk of injury and that such action was a proximate cause of the accident. If a vehicle was not engaged in some form of semi-autonomous driving and the plaintiff’s allegation is that the automatic emergency braking simply did not work, the defendant or manufacturer will very likely succeed in raising the comparative fault defense. If however, the vehicle was engaged in some form of semi-autonomous driving, including using adaptive cruise control and the vehicle either accelerated or failed to stop, the comparative fault doctrine may be overcome by the plaintiff.
Ultimately the jury will have to determine what percentage of the accident is the plaintiff’s fault and what percentage of the accident is the defendant’ fault. If the plaintiff is more at fault than the defendant for the accident, the plaintiff will not be able to recover the damages they suffered as a result of the motor vehicle crash.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a serious motor vehicle crash where the systems in the vehicle either malfunctioned or caused the crash, contact our lawyers. Our attorneys offer a free no obligation consultation. Should we represent you, you do not pay a fee unless we win.