Seat Belt and Airbag Injuries

The Maine car accident lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates can help you recover the compensation you deserve if you were hurt because the safety equipment in your car failed. There are many ways in which components such as seat belts and airbags can malfunction, causing injury to a driver or passengers. In such instances, you may need to bring a claim against a car manufacturer or a service technician. Typically, manufacturers and other large companies have significant resources, as well as a team of savvy attorneys and insurers to consult. If you are up against these companies, you need an attorney you can trust, who knows the kinds of arguments made by manufacturers and how to defeat these defenses through the strategic use of evidence and expert testimony.

Malfunctioning Airbags and Seat Belts

In addition to any negligence claim you may have when hurt in a car accident, you may have a claim against a manufacturer or a service technician if your airbag deploys inappropriately (such as when going over a speed bump), fails to deploy at all, or releases a dangerous chemical when deployed. Common injuries that can result from malfunctioning airbags are broken facial bones, blindness, burns, or disfigurement. Improperly deploying airbags have even caused traumatic brain injuries.

Similarly, you may have a claim against a manufacturer or service technician if you are hurt due to a defective seat belt. A defective seatbelt is one that fails to restrain a passenger or driver appropriately, or causes injuries such as organ damage, broken ribs, or internal bleeding. Common flaws include a failure to properly latch or retract, having a shoulder strap defect, or a broken buckle.

Maine Product Liability Law

If you are severely injured because of an airbag or seat belt failure, you may need to bring a product liability lawsuit against a manufacturer, distributor, supplier, or anyone else who put you in contact with the defective equipment. Depending on the particular facts of your case, you may be able to allege causes of action including strict liability or negligent design.

Strict Product Liability Under Maine Law

In a product liability suit, a plaintiff does not necessarily need to show negligence by the manufacturer or seller. Rather, under a standard of strict liability, the plaintiff must show that the product — in this case, the seat belt or airbag — was defective. Anyone who sells products "in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous" to the expected user or consumer is subject to liability for the physical injuries that person sustains. This rule applies if there has been no significant change in the condition in which the product was sold. Therefore, a product liability suit may be complicated by a manufacturer's ability to show that a service technician you hired before the accident altered the seatbelt or airbag significantly.

Design Defects in Maine

Maine design defect cases are different from manufacturing defect cases because they reflect some principles common to negligence cases. Maine appellate courts have not fully clarified this area of law in connection with seat belt and airbag claims.

In design defect cases, there are two different tests a court is likely to use in connection with a plaintiff's claim. The first is the "consumer expectation test" which asks whether a reasonable consumer would expect or anticipate the danger involved with a product. Nobody expects to be hurt by the safety devices in their cars, so the "danger-utility test" is the more likely test to be used by Maine courts in this context. With a danger-utility test, a jury must weigh the actual danger of a designed feature against its usefulness. If a design is more dangerous than it is useful, a design defect will be found. For example, if there is an alternative design to the seat belt that could have prevented the harm you suffered, the design is more dangerous than it is useful.

Retain an Experienced Seat Belt or Airbag Injury Lawyer

If you are hurt because of a defective seat belt or airbag, it is crucial to retain a trustworthy Maine car accident attorney to pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 800.804.2004 or via our online form to schedule your free initial consultation.

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