According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014 has been an unprecedented year with regard to auto recalls and defective component parts. One of the largest recalls, initiated by General Motors, involves potentially deadly malfunctions with ignition switches – potentially causing vehicles to sporadically turn off while in motion, preventing airbags from deflating in the event of impact. 

Understanding product liability actions

Product liability is a sub-sect of the legal doctrine of negligence – which imparts liability on defendants who fail to adhere to standards of safety and reasonable care regarding others. Under general principles of New York law, a defendant automaker can face liability for an improper design, sub-par testing, defective manufacturing or dishonest marketing of a vehicle. Automakers can also face liability for failing to warn consumers of a known danger inherent in the vehicle – which is why many automakers opt to issue elaborate recalls of vehicles known to present a danger.

As your car accident attorneys will undoubtedly explain, a successful product liability lawsuit can garner significant financial compensation for injured victims. Oftentimes, large auto manufacturers, retailers and dealers are eager to make public lawsuits disappear – as drawing media attention to defects is usually bad for business. For this reason, auto makers may offer a seemingly sizable settlement to injured plaintiffs at the outset of their claim. 

Damages available to product liability plaintiffs

Much like traditional negligence actions, damages available to product liability plaintiffs generally include restitution for medical expenses, lost wages, future earnings, property damage, and other compensatory costs associated with the incident. In some cases, an injured plaintiff may be able to obtain general damages to compensate for pain and suffering, emotional turmoil, or mental anguish. If a plaintiff is left permanently disabled or is otherwise left to endure years’ of rehabilitation following the crash, the plaintiff’s immediate family members may be able to initiate a cause of action under a theory known as “loss of consortium” – a doctrine designed to compensate loved ones for the loss of their relationship with the victim.