Most car accidents are the direct result of a simple human error. A person breaks the speed limit and becomes unable to respond to an unexpected situation in time, so they slam into another car – or they don’t notice that the traffic light ahead is red and they T-bone another driver.
But some accidents aren’t the driver’s fault – or the fault of anyone else on the road. For example, some accidents are caused (at least in part) by manufacturer defects.
Just how common are these manufacturer defect accidents? And is there anything you can do to prevent them?
The Occurrence Rate
According to the NHTSA, approximately 2 percent of all car accidents are due at least partially to manufacturer defects. Broadly speaking, that doesn’t amount to much – you’re still much more likely to be involved in an accident that’s due to human error. But it still amounts to thousands of collisions each year, many of which result in injury or death. In these situations, the manufacturer responsible for the defect may be partially or fully responsible for paying damages associated with the accident, including the cost to repair vehicles, hospital bills, and even lost wages.
Types of Manufacturer Defects
There are several types of manufacturer defects that can lead to accidents, including:
- Braking system failures. If the brakes don’t work as intended, or if they don’t carry as much stopping power as they’re supposed to, you may be unable to come to a complete stop before impact.
- Steering wheel issues. If you lose your ability to steer the vehicle properly, you won’t be able to maneuver.
- Accelerator pedal failures. A bad accelerator pedal could make it impossible to accelerate – or might become stuck, leading to constant acceleration.
- Fuel system leaks. If your fuel tank leaks and you’re involved in some kind of igniting event, it could cause a fire.
- Tire vulnerabilities. Improper tire manufacturing could lead to blowouts or tread separations, causing you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Airbag failures. If airbags don’t deploy as intended during an accident, it could put you at increased risk of injury or death.
- Structural weaknesses. Structural weaknesses, like poor roof structuring, could lead to additional harm when a vehicle is involved in an accident.
The Complexity of Fault
In some cases, a manufacturer defect is entirely to blame for an accident. But in many cases, fault is more complicated to determine. For example, did you know about the manufacturer defect and refuse to have it corrected? Did the defect only come into play after you were breaking the law, such as by speeding or going through a stop sign? Defects often play a role in vehicular collisions, but they’re rarely the only factor in play.
Preventing Manufacturer Defects
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can use to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a collision due to a manufacturer defect:
- Buy from manufacturers you trust. First, make sure you familiarize yourself with the history, safety standards, and reliability of different manufacturers. Only buy from manufacturers that you trust with your life. There are dozens of brands that have a long history of safe, reliable vehicle production (though few, if any brands are perfect).
- Do your research before buying. If you’re in the market for a vehicle, do your research before you buy. There might be a good deal on a used vehicle that’s only 2 years old, but a quick Google search might tell you that there are inherent problems with its structural integrity.
- Stay tuned to recall information. Most manufacturers, upon discovering a safety flaw or a significant defect, will do everything they can to recall that part – or sometimes, the entire vehicle. That could mean removing the defective part from circulation entirely or issuing a repair (for free). Stay tuned to the news and pay attention to your incoming mail to make sure you don’t miss the news or the opportunity.
- Maintain your vehicle regularly. On top of that, it pays to have your vehicle maintained on a regular basis. Get it inspected and make repairs as necessary. During the inspection process, a technical expert may discover a flaw or defect – and repair it before it’s too late.
- Drive cautiously. You never know when a manufacturer defect may make itself known. It’s in your best interest to drive cautiously at all times so you can respond to an unforeseen development, should one arise; driving a bit slower and more attentively can allow you to respond adeptly if the worst comes to pass.
With a bit of proactive research and effort, you can stop most manufacturer defects before they result in an accident. Still, it pays to be cautious. While not especially common, manufacturer defects in vehicles still result in thousands of injuries and deaths every year.