If my car caught on fire from a electrical problem, isn’t that a manufacturing defect?

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If my car caught on fire from a electrical problem, isn’t that a manufacturing defect?

Every time I made a right turn my car would cut off. As I was on the way to the dealer the car started smoking. I looked on under the hood and it was on fire.

Asked on October 2, 2011 under Accident Law, Texas


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You would want to find out what caused the fire in order to determine whether it was a manufacturing defect or just some negligent repair from a prior mechanic or even just a rag that got caught under the car.

If the fire was caused by a defect in the vehicle, you could sue the manufacturer and the seller (dealer where you purchased the car) for negligence and strict liability.

Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable manufacturer would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances) to produce a product that was not defective.  In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care), actual cause, proximate cause, and damages.  Actual cause means but for the defect would the car have started on fire?  If the answer is no, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening events which would relieve the manufacturer of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit.  Damages would be the cost of repair to the car.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages or your damages will be reduced accordingly.

The seller (auto dealer) is liable for negligence even if the seller could not have known of the defect.

In addition to your cause of action (claim) of negligence against the manufacturer and seller, your lawsuit should include a separate cause of action (claim) for strict liability.  Strict liability means the manufacturer and seller are liable whether or not due care was exercised.

When a product is defective, this can be either a manufacturing defect or a design defect.  A manufacturing defect is an aberration.  A design defect is one where the defective condition is due to the actual design of the product.

You will need to file your lawsuit for negligence and strict liability prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

Prior to filing your lawsuit, it may be possible to settle the case with the insurance carriers for the manufacturer and seller.  If the case is settled, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled, proceed with your lawsuit.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carriers, reject the settlement offers and file your lawsuit.  If it is possible to settle with one of the parties, but not the other, then your lawsuit would only name the party with whom settlement has not been reached as a defendant.  If the case is settled with the insurance carriers for  both parties, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled with the insurance carriers for both parties, your lawsuit will name both parties as defendants. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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