Automobiles are safer than they’ve ever been; advanced collision testing, crumple zones, seatbelts, airbags, and safety glass are just a few of the innovations that have saved countless lives in car crashes. As safe as cars can be, however, any Northern New Jersey product liability lawyer can tell you that design and manufacturing mistakes can create unforeseen hazards or render these safety features moot.
If you own a vehicle, you know that car manufacturers frequently issue safety related recalls. Though not the most common product defect in automobiles, fire hazards are among the most dangerous, and far too many vehicles have been recalled in recent years for being fire risks. Last year, Hyundai recalled multiple vehicles because of fire hazards related to anti-lock braking systems and short circuits in their batteries.
Car manufacturers, however, don’t always spot—or for that matter recall—defective products. If your vehicle catches fire, we recommend consulting with us at Buttafuoco & Associates to see if you have a product liability case.
Common Causes of Car Fires
A car defect lawyer serving Northern New Jersey can tell you that not all car fires are caused by product defects, but there are several common causes of car fires that a product defect can contribute to, including:
- Overheating Engine or Catalytic Converter: The catalytic converter works to reduce toxic fumes and pollutants from your car’s exhaust. When they overheat, it’s usually because the engine isn’t operating efficiently and is producing excess exhaust, causing the converter to work harder. As a complex machine, there are a variety of reasons and potential product defects that could cause these engine problems, sharply increasing the risk of fire.
- Battery and Electrical System Failure: As cars become more wired, there are more opportunities for design flaws and product defects in electrical systems to occur. Recently, Nissan recalled over half a million Rogue SUVs because of faulty wiring that could easily start a fire inside the vehicle.
- Fluid Leaks and Spilled Fluids: Considering there are many flammable liquids under the hood of your car, this can cause serious problems if they leak or spill. These problems happen most often because of a crash, but even in the absence of a crash, a design flaw in the fluid systems can increase leaks or spills, thereby contributing to a vehicle fire.
- Electric Vehicle Battery: Electric vehicles catch fire far less frequently than gas powered vehicles, but when they do catch fire, the blaze is more severe and more difficult to extinguish. The reason is the lithium-ion battery, and there have been many cases where flaws in the battery caused fires in electric vehicles. In August 2021, for example, Chevy issued a recall on all models of their Bolt electric vehicle because of a fire hazard in the battery.
Product Liability Law
Product liability law first arose in the early twentieth century as mass-produced goods became more common, and the New Jersey courts have been instrumental in establishing the standards of product liability litigation. Essentially, the marketplace operated under the “buyer beware” principle; however, once the age of mass production arrived, it became difficult and unreasonable for consumers to be well-informed, and they had little recourse if a defective product caused them harm.
Among the most important cases was the historic Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors Inc. In this case, the courts ruled that there was a broader theory of warranty beyond what was explicitly stated by the manufacturer. In other words, by manufacturing the vehicle, promoting it, and then selling it, the manufacturer—as well as the dealer—maintain responsibility for the product’s safety for its intended use. At Buttafuoco & Associates, our product liability lawyers in Northern New Jersey have significant knowledge of case law and how previous cases could impact your situation.
Even if you are unsure that your vehicle fire falls under the umbrella of product liability law, you may still have a case; get in touch with Buttafuoco & Associates today at 1-800-NOW-HURT.