During an accident, it is common for people to be ejected out of their vehicles through open doors. The leading cause of these door openings is defective or broken door latches. Faulty door latches reduce the ability of doors to secure vehicle occupants and prevent them from ejection in case of an accident. If you suffer pain and financial losses due to accidents resulting from defective door latches, you may seek compensation. Your injury attorney can evaluate the specific situation of your case and help determine your legal rights. If you suffer injuries due to a defective car door latch, the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation.
Common Forms of Car Door Latch Defects
Defective car door latches pose a severe risk to both drivers and passengers of a vehicle, mainly when an accident occurs. Door latch failure during an accident leading to the ejection of vehicle occupants is the main form of failure. Flying out of a vehicle during an accident can increase the seriousness of the injuries and even lead to fatal injuries.
Door latch failure also affects the structural integrity of a vehicle. If a vehicle door opens during a rollover accident, the vehicle's roof is likely to cave in. Caving in of the roof will increase the risk of injuries faced by the vehicle occupants.
When the door latch is defective, the vehicle's door may open during normal vehicle usage. This may make a passenger fall out of a moving vehicle leading to injuries. When the door latch is faulty, a door may become jammed in an accident. This would also be dangerous because it may cause an impediment and hinder rescue operations after a car accident.
Common Causes of Door Latch Defects
A door latch failure may seem like a small mechanical issue. However, a failing car door latch may cause many problems. The latch is responsible for keeping the car door shut, and it is accountable for unhooking the door to open. A defective car latch may prevent you from getting into your car or getting out of the vehicle. Being unable to get out of the vehicle can be particularly dangerous during an accident.
Some of the leading causes of car door failures include:
- Flaws in the design of the latches
- Insufficient or improper warnings for consumers
- Manufacturing defects and other mistakes made during manufacturing
- Inadequate directions and guidelines for safe usage
The majority of door latch failures occur in older vehicles. Some of the causes of the failures include normal wear and tear of the car. A vehicle calls for proper maintenance to reduce the effect of wear and tear. Slamming the vehicle door too much may make the door latch to fail. If water gets into the door jam, it could make the latch to rust and make it hard to open and close.
In most cases, water may get into the door from the rain. As you wash your vehicle, water may collect close to the latch and freeze therein. This may make the door freeze shut.
Most door latch problems, especially jamming and failure of the door to open, occur during winter. You should never get into a vehicle and drive if the door latch is stuck. If an accident occurs, you would be in danger if you cannot get out of the vehicle. It would be hard for the rescuers to get you out of the vehicle. A driver should not try to tie the door or rig the door in a way to keep it closed. You should only rely on the latch to close and open the door. Trying to adjust the door may make you liable and deny you compensation in case of an accident. An unlatched door is highly likely to fly open during an accident, and this would make you or other vehicle occupants' fall out of the car.
Signs of a Failing Door Latch
For a driver, it is crucial to understand how your vehicle functions. By understanding the functionality of your vehicle, you can be able to identify various red flags. You will be able to tell when some vehicle parts are failing.
It is essential to understand how the door latch works on your vehicle. The latch is the mechanism that helps to secure the car door closed. When you pull the door handle, the door latch actuates, and the door opens. Other than the mechanical latch, a U-shaped anchor is also present. A problematic door latch will produce various symptoms that will alert the vehicle driver. Some of the door latch failure signs to look out for include:
Failure of the Door to Stay Closed
You can tell that the door latch is failing if you are not able to keep the door closed. The latch and the anchor should interlock to keep the door closed whenever you shut the door. If the latch mechanism of your door fails, it may not be possible to secure the anchor. This will hinder the door from remaining closed. If it is not possible to close one or more doors of your vehicle, it is not safe to operate the vehicle. The vehicle will, therefore, be unsafe to drive and operate.
You Have to Slam the Door to Close It
You may tell that the door latch is faulty if you have to slam your vehicle door to close it. You may realize that the door won't latch unless you give it a hard slam. A car door should close with a gentle to moderate amount of force. If your car door only secures after you slam it, it may be an indication that the latch mechanism is not working correctly. It may also be a sign that the latch is not well- aligned with the anchor. If you continually slam your car door, the latch will eventually fail and call for a replacement.
Difficulties Opening the Car Door
You may tell that your door latch is faulty if the car door is always stuck whenever you try to open it. This would be an indication that there is a problem with the door latch mechanism. You may realize that even after pulling the door handle, the door remains stuck and will not open. You may need to have a professional mechanic disassemble the door from the interior of the vehicle to fix the problem.
Door latches are a crucial component of every vehicle. Most door latches are built for long service life and heavy-duty use. However, you should be aware that door latches could fail to lead to issues with your door. If you suspect that your door latch has failed, you should have a mechanic evaluate it. This will ensure that in case of door latch failure during an accident, you will not be at fault.
If the door fails due to manufacturing defects or faulty design, the vehicle manufacturer may be to blame for the failure.
Defective Door Latches and Accidents
Vehicle ejection accidents are the most common types of accidents that result in catastrophic injuries in Florida. It is common for vehicle ejection accidents to lead to wrongful deaths. The leading cause of vehicle ejection is a defective door latch.
When manufacturers are making vehicles, they consider the door to be a fundamental or crucial component of the overall structural strength of a vehicle. The manufacturers should always ensure that the door can withstand any type of vehicle crash. However, this is not always the case because it is common for car doors to fly open during an accident.
Manufacturers have to issue sufficient warnings to consumers regarding door locks. For instance, some vehicles on the road do not have auto-lock devices. This means that after entering the vehicles, the occupants have to engage the lock manually. The vehicle manufacturers have a duty of warning consumers that if they do not engage the doors, the doors may fly open during an accident. The opening of car doors during an accident would lead to the ejection of the victims. A car accident is highly likely to be fatal if the victims are ejected during a collision or any other type of accident.
It is hard to be confident that a car door will not fail during an accident. According to the established standards, vehicle manufacturers should ensure that door latches have enough strength to maintain their integrity even when subjected to certain levels of force. However, even if manufacturers follow all the requirements, there is no crash test to help determine the effectiveness of the car door latches. The lack of standardization implies that it is hard to tell that your car door will not fail during an accident. With a failing door latch, a seemingly minor accident may turn into a fatal accident.
Some manufacturers put profits above safety. For instance, a manufacturer may find it cheaper to settle an accident claim instead of issuing a recall for defective door latches. When manufacturers choose profits over the safety of vehicle occupants, the results can be catastrophic. A personal injury attorney is committed to holding manufacturers/automakers responsible for the decisions that pose unreasonable risks to consumers.
A typical door latch defect involves the remote rod. The remote rod is the link between the door handle and the latch. When the rod experiences the pressure of vehicle collision, it may bend, and this would cause the vehicle door to fly open. It is advisable to have a safe compression-type linkage instead of having the tension-type rods. The tension-type rods are dangerous and more susceptible to damage. The strength and the design of your vehicle door will also greatly influence or protect the rod from bending during an accident. Doors with more than one retention point are the safest types of car doors.
In Florida, accidents arising from defective door latches continue to occur. This is despite the implementation of the Federal Vehicle Standard 206. This standard requires a vehicle to undergo a crashworthiness test for door latches. This regulation came into effect in the early 1970s. This regulation has undergone several revisions over time. The changes to the regulation include back door and sliding door latches testing.
For a door latch to be effective, it should meet the federal motor vehicle safety standard. This standard requires that a door latch must be able to sustain an inertial load of 30G's during an accident or a crash. This is three times the force of gravity.
Proving Injury Due to a Defective Car Door Latch
After suffering catastrophic injuries in a car accident due to a defective door latch, the defendant, mostly the manufacturer, may deny liability. The defendant may strive to prove that you suffered injuries due to your own negligence. The manufacturer may also argue that at the time the vehicle was sold, the door latch was functional.
The defendants may blame you for failing to secure the door latch. However, if the manufacturer had not issued sufficient warning that you need to engage the door manually, he/she may be at fault for failing to offer a warning to consumers. To prove the fault of the manufacturer and show that he/she improperly manufactured or designed the car door or the door latch, you have to prove several elements.
It must be evident that the door latch failed during the accident. When the door latch fails, the door may open and lead to the ejection of vehicle occupants. The latch may also fail to make it impossible to open the door after an accident. This would also be detrimental because the trapped victim may not be able to get out of the vehicle wreckage to seek medical services.
You may also point out that the door latch did not meet the crashworthiness standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). You may have to prove that the vehicle door failed due to a weak or a manufacturing door latch.
It must be apparent that the door latch failure caused or escalated the injuries suffered by you or other vehicle occupants. You may point out that if the door latch had not failed, you or your loved ones would not have suffered catastrophic injuries. You may also point out that if the door latch had not failed to make it hard to open the car door, the victim or the victims would have been able to seek timely medical attention.
Many vehicle manufacturers across the world have faced lawsuits due to failed car door latches. Many people continue to suffer severe injuries or even die due to ejection from vehicles. Vehicles bearing type III door latches are more prone to door latch failure. Some manufacturers issue recalls of door latches to evade liability in case of door latch failure.
Common Injuries in Door Latch Failure Accidents
You may consider a door latch to a relatively unimportant vehicle part. However, it is essential to note that the door latch is an integral part of a vehicle. A door latch is one of the most crucial automobile's safety systems. The chances of suffering severe injuries or even dying in a vehicle accident increase with door latch failure.
Upon ejection during a rollover vehicle accident, you risk striking a tree or being crushed by your vehicle. This will result in various injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, and spinal injuries. With adequately functioning car door and latch, most of these injuries are avoidable.
Other common latch failure injuries include road abrasions. You may suffer severe road abrasions because of sliding on the surface of the road upon ejection from the vehicle. You may experience severe limb injuries necessitating amputation. Deaths are also common when a door latch fails during an accident.
Head injuries and brain or spinal cord injuries are also common. Most people who experience brain and spinal cord injuries may suffer paralysis for a lifetime.
Other Liable Parties
Other than the vehicle manufacturer or designer, other parties may be liable for a door latch failure. In most cases, the vehicle manufacturer is responsible for injuries arising from a defective car door latch. If there is a defect in the design of the door latch, it makes it more susceptible to failure. The manufacturer may be at fault. The manufacturer may be liable under the product liability theory of law. The manufacturer may also be responsible for using inferior materials to construct the door latch because this makes the latch more dangerous during an accident.
Other than the manufacturer, people who may have repaired a faulty door latch may be liable when an accident occurs. If the repair experts perform a defective car repair, they may be responsible in case of an accident. For example, a vehicle repair professional or a mechanic may use the wrong parts to repair the door latch. The mechanic may be liable, especially if the mechanic knew or should have known that the vehicle repair was defective in some way.
Accidents involving defective door latches are often severe and require legal action to help resolve all the issues of the case. In most cases involving faulty door latches, monetary compensation is the likely remedy. The non-liable party in the accident is entitled to compensation. If a product defect is at issue, the vehicle may be subject to a recall. A class-action lawsuit involving many victims may also result due to defective door latch.
If you suffer damages and injuries in an accident involving defective door latches, you are eligible for two types of payment. You are eligible for compensatory damages and punitive damages. If you get compensatory damages, you will get reimbursement for some or all of your accident-related expenses.
Compensatory damages include the medical expenses you incur in seeking treatment for the injuries you suffered in the accident. Given the seriousness of the injuries you are likely to suffer during the accident, the medical costs incurred may be hefty.
You are also entitled to compensation for lost income, commonly known as lost wages. After suffering injuries in an accident, you may no longer be able to work and earn some income. You may have to spend a significant period out of work to have time to recover from the injuries. You are therefore entitled to compensation for your injuries. You may also get compensation for loss of earning capacity. Even in the future, the injuries may hinder you from working effectively and earning an income.
You may also receive non-compensatory damages, including compensation for emotional distress and pain and suffering. You may be under intense mental turmoil after suffering injuries in a vehicle accident involving door latch failure. You may experience feelings of anguish, self-pity, low self-esteem, and anger due to the injuries you suffer.
You may also receive compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life. After suffering injuries, you may no longer enjoy life the way you used to before the accident. For instance, you may not have the ability to participate in your favorite sports or hobbies. You may avoid going to social and entertainment joints because you do not want people to see your injuries. For these reasons, you may claim compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life.
If the court feels that the defendant was particularly negligent, the court may award you punitive damages. This compensation aims at punishing the liable party by giving some additional payment to the victim. The court has the discretion of deciding the number of punitive damages. Punitive damages will make the defendant avoid repeating the offense in the future.
Why Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
The insurance company or the manufacturer may deny the claim after you suffer injuries in an accident. You will require an attorney to face the insurers and the manufacturer on your behalf.
An attorney will also ensure that you get full reimbursement for all accident-related expenses, both compensatory and non-compensatory.
The attorney will also prevent a delay in your case. You have to file a personal injury lawsuit within the set statute of limitations. Your attorney will ensure you file the lawsuit on time for you to get compensation.
Contact a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney near Me
Defective door latch cases can be complicated and typically need the help of an attorney. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can provide you with legal advice and represent you during the court process. Contact us at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our attorneys.