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Strict liability in product auto defect lawsuits

By Butler Prather LLP on January 27, 2017

Tens of millions of cars have been recalled in recent years for problems ranging from faulty ignition switches to malfunctioning airbags. However, accidents caused by defective automobile parts are still a regular occurrence in Georgia and around the country. Car makers are held strictly liable when their products are used as intended and cause injury, loss or damage, meaning that plaintiffs in product liability lawsuits are not required to show that negligence or recklessness played a role.

If the rules of strict liability did not apply, those injured in accidents caused by auto defects would be expected to demonstrate that car makers knew or should have known about a problem and failed to act accordingly. Proving this liability could be very difficult when dealing with corporations used for both protecting trade secrets and dealing with litigation. While the doctrine of strict liability may make product liability lawsuits less formidable for plaintiffs, there are still a number of defenses that car makers can mount.

Pointing the finger of blame at plaintiffs is a common tactic used in personal injury lawsuits, and car manufacturers sometimes claim that the plaintiffs in product liability cases tampered with their vehicles in some way or acted negligently while behind the wheel. They may also seek to avoid liability by claiming that a recall was available to fix the problem concerned.

Those who have been injured by defective products are sometimes reluctant to file lawsuits against large and wealthy corporations, but attorneys with product liability experience may point out that these defendants have much to lose. In addition to compensatory damages for expenses like medical bills and lost wages, the plaintiffs in product liability cases are sometimes awarded punitive damages. Corporations and insurance companies know that punitive damages are generally high as they are awarded as much to deter others as they are to punish wrongdoing, and this may motivate the defendants in product liability litigation to settle lawsuits quickly and quietly.

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