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Defective Cars: What to Look For?

While it’s rare for a new automobile to have defective parts, it’s not unheard of. For example, thousands of automobiles sporting Takata-manufactured airbags had to be recalled. The airbags sometimes exploded on deployment, hitting people inside with metal shrapnel. Most of these airbags were installed in new vehicles sold from 2002 to 2015. A more infamous example is the Ford Pinto, a model so poorly designed that fuel-tanks exploded during rear-end collisions. More often than not, used car dealerships sell defective vehicles, called lemons, and don’t inform the buyer of any dangerous problems with the product. While Georgia has a lemon law protecting buyers from losing money on faulty new cars, the law doesn’t protect buyers of used vehicles. The law also doesn't protect you from potential mechanical complications beforehand. More often than not, it’s when your car needs to operate at maximum, such as during an accident, that you find the defect. Here are a few ways you can tell if you have a malfunctioning model.

Check the Recall Listing

The easiest way to verify if your vehicle has a defect, particularly if it’s used, is to visit a website powered by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. If you enter your vehicle identification number (VIN), it will tell you whether a manufacturer has recalled your car or its products. The website does not usually cover vehicles more than 15 years old (unless the manufacturer offers longer coverage) or smaller manufacturers. A full list is available on the website.

Airbag Deployment

If you were already in an accident, how did your airbag deploy? A serious front or side impact would cause the immediate deployment of front or side airbags to protect you and your passengers from injury. If your airbags failed to work at all, deployed late, or inflated early, they were likely defective. An unreliable product may also deploy for no reason at all, after you hit a pothole in the road, or after you’re rear-ended by another vehicle. An airbag in the front of the car should never be triggered if you’re rear-ended, as it might lead to serious injury and impede your view through the front windshield. While airbags can cause some bruising, burns, skin irritation, eye injury, or asthmatic reactions, they are usually not severe. Extreme injury as a result of airbag deployment is typically the result of a malfunction.

Seatbelt Sturdiness

Before an accident, if you notice your seatbelt detaches easily it is unlikely to protect you. Seatbelts should never be loose once they’re buckled, as they may do the same in the event of a collision. After an accident, if your seatbelt is no longer buckled, though it was before the incident, it’s likely defective. Likewise, if you were wearing a seatbelt and were injured by the seat moving too far forward (or completely ejected) during the collision, your seatbelt was likely at fault.

Seat Sturdiness

Seats are also designed to protect the occupants of the car. If your seat moves back and forth too easily, without using the lever designed to move it, this may indicate a defect. If your seat moves unexpectedly during a collision, it could relocate you in relation to the airbag, potentially causing serious injury. Even during normal driving, if the seat moves unexpectedly, it might distract you enough to cause an accident. For those in the back seat, it could also injure them by moving unexpectedly. Your seat should also not collapse during an accident.

Car Frame

Mechanical engineers design cars to withstand severe accidents. One of the ways they’ve protected the occupants of cars is to implement roll cages. A roll cage protects car occupants in the event a car is hit so hard it rolls over. If the frame crumples during an accident, causing injury to those inside, it was probably defective.

Steering, Accelerating, and Braking

If you notice strange responses from your steering and braking mechanisms, this could be problematic. Losing steering, acceleration, or braking capabilities during high-speed driving is dangerous. Check the vehicle’s responsiveness while going slow speeds. Any inconsistencies should be immediately looked at by a mechanic.

Electronic Issues

While a lack of air conditioning wouldn’t be considered a safety-related defect, losing your headlights or taillights while driving is. If you notice strange electrical malfunctions, you may have a faulty battery or a malfunctioning controller area network (CAN). Your dashboard will usually flash a “check battery” sign if your battery is having problems, but if your CAN is also malfunctioning they may not. A swollen battery or one that smells like bad eggs indicates something is chemically wrong with the battery.

If you haven’t been in an accident but you fear your car may have these issues, see a mechanic as soon as possible and hire a good product liability lawyer. If you’ve already been injured as a result of a malfunction, you might be eligible for compensation as well. Contact Pratt Clay, LLC at (404) 998-5258 or fill out our online form for a free case review today!