Created by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors
| Last updated December 04, 2018
Motor vehicle defect cases include claims involving not only passenger automobiles, but also motorcycles, trucks, and vans. Unlike an ordinary personal injury claim for negligence after a motor vehicle accident, in order to establish a vehicle manufacturer or seller’s liability for a car defect, you do not need to show that they were careless.
Claims may be based on defects in:
- The body and frame,
- Brakes and braking system,
- Cooling and temperature control system,
- Electrical system,
- Engine assembly,
- Exhaust system,
- Fuel system,
- Lubrication system,
- Passenger compartment,
- Steering and suspension systems,
- Transmission and drivetrain, and other parts and accessories.
Again, carelessness is not a requirement under the strict liability legal standard. Instead, liability in motor vehicle defect cases is controlled by the doctrine of strict liability. Regardless of what steps a manufacturer or dealer says it takes in designing, assembling, or handling a motor vehicle, you can make a strict liability claim based on a motor vehicle defect — without making any showing as to carelessness — if all three of the following conditions exist:
- The vehicle or one of its components had an “unreasonably dangerous” defect that injured you. The defect can come into existence either in the design of the vehicle, during manufacture, during handling or shipment (i.e. delivery from the manufacturer), or through a failure to warn consumers of a dangerous aspect of the vehicle.
- The defect caused an injury while the vehicle was being used in a way that it was intended to be used. For example, you may not be able to recover if a sports sedan were used to cross a stream.
- The vehicle had not been substantially changed from the condition in which it was originally sold. “Substantially” means in a way that affects how the vehicle performs.
Defenses to Defective Motor Vehicle Lawsuits
The vehicle manufacturer and/or the seller may have a defense to your strict liability claims, particularly if you have owned the vehicle for some time, if it can be shown that you knew about the defect but continued to use the vehicle anyway. This is usually established either through the vehicle’s condition (which the manufacturer’s or seller’s insurance company will be able to examine if you bring a claim) or from your own description of your use of the vehicle. In some states, a manufacturer or seller may also be able to defend against your motor vehicle defect claim under the theory that your contributory or comparative negligence was the cause of, or a factor in, your injuries.
A recent trend in vehicle product liability cases is to increase awards of punitive damages for those who successfully bring a claim against a manufacturer or seller. These punitive damages awards are above and beyond damages to compensate a plaintiff for his or her injuries, and can range into the tens of millions of dollars in certain instances. Punitive damages are
Created by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors
| Last updated June 20, 2016
As with traffic laws in general, bicycle laws are enforced at the state and local levels. But while bicyclists generally are expected to follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists, most jurisdictions also have laws that are specific to those operating bicycles on public thoroughfares. State laws and local ordinances also typically include bicycle helmet provisions, rules against riding a bike on the sidewalk, biking while under the influence and other bicycle-specific rules.
Some local bicycle ordinances have been criticized for making bikers (and pedestrians) less safe, such as requirements that bicyclists ride on the sidewalk or walk their bikes across intersections. Since bicycle laws can be different from one municipality to another, and not always intuitive, bicyclists should familiarize themselves with laws along regularly traveled routes. Read on to learn more about how bicycle laws work.
Traffic violations incurred while riding a bicycle are handled just the same as for a moving violation involving an automobile. The ticket should indicate whether the violation involved a bicycle and will not affect your automobile insurance.
Common Bicycle Traffic Rules
While some bicycles are equipped with turn signals, bicyclists are required to use the proper hand signals when turning, changing lanes or stopping. Failure to signal while biking in traffic can result in a traffic citation:
- Right Turn / Lane Change: Right hand extended straight out
- Left Turn / Lane Change: Right hand bent upward 90 degrees at the elbow
- Stop: Right hand bent downward 90 degrees at the elbow
Most states and the District of Columbia require the use of bicycle helmets to some degree, often for children under the age of 16 or 18. And while there are no state laws requiring helmets for bicyclists all ages, many local ordinances do. Washington state, for example, has no state law addressing the use of helmets at all but many of its cities (including Seattle) require bicyclists of all ages to wear helmets.
Lights and Reflectors
In virtually every state, bicyclists are required to have red lights on the back and white lights on the front, as well as white reflectors on the front and red reflectors on the back. Details vary with respect to individual state and local laws.
Riding on Sidewalks
Most state and local ordinances prohibit bicyclists over a certain age (13 in San Francisco, for example) from biking on sidewalks, although bikers must always yield to pedestrians. However, some local ordinances allow bicycling on sidewalks and even prohibit bikes on certain streets.
Running a Stop Sign or Stoplight
As with motorists, bicyclists may not ride through a stop sign or stoplight without stopping completely first. Bikes move slowly (compared to automobiles) and so it may not seem practical to come to a complete stop–especially if stopping uphill–but failing to do so could result in a citation.
State Bicycle Laws
The California Vehicle Code Section
Car accidents can be terrifying experiences. Often, at least some of the people involved are injured, sometimes severely, and the automobiles that crashed are damaged. The legal system can help the parties sort out who is at fault for the accident, and which party needs to pay the doctors’ and mechanics’ bills.
How a Car Accident Case Works
Car accident law is a combination of traffic and personal injury law. Someone who is injured in an auto accident can hire an attorney who will negotiate with the other drivers to determine who should pay for the damage, and if necessary, the attorney will file a lawsuit. The courts will piece together exactly what happened using police reports, photos, and other evidence, and then use the local traffic laws as well as legal concepts such as to determine who caused the accident. Whoever is at fault usually has to compensate the other party for medical and property expenses, as well as for harm such as lost wages and pain and suffering.
However, this is not always a simple calculation, since sometimes both drivers are at fault. Each state has slightly different rules for situations in which there is more than one person responsible for the crash. Some states require that one party pays all the bills, whereas others allow the two parties to split the bills according to the amount each party is to blame.
The Role of Auto Insurance
Fortunately, most people do not pay all of the damages stemming from a collision out of pocket. Automobile insurance may pay to repair at least some of the damages or replacement cost for all or some of the vehicles involved, and may pay for some medical expenses as well. Insurance companies may also pay for an attorney, if necessary, although clients do not usually get to choose their own attorney. State laws vary widely on the extent and types of insurance required to drive a vehicle.
Determining Who Is At Fault
The laws on who is at fault vary depending on the types of vehicles involved. Most states give more protections to pedestrians and bicyclists, since they are more vulnerable to injuries from a collision. Similarly, motorcyclists may have greater injuries, but motorcyclists also must follow different traffic rules since they can be faster and more nimble than an automobile. Truck drivers are usually professionally trained and certified, and have to drive more carefully than most other drivers. Determining who pays for the damage after a collision with a truck is slightly more complicated than other kinds of accidents because trucks are often commercially owned, so the liability may rest not only on the driver, but on the owner of the truck as well.
Look through the articles in this section to find more information on the different types of collisions, how auto insurance works, and on what to do after a car accident to ensure that any legal case that follows goes as smoothly as possible.