Drivers owe a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to other drivers. This legal obligation includes seeing to the regular maintenance and repair of their vehicles. Drivers who neglect to properly maintain their vehicles may be held liable for any damages if a crash results.
If you were injured in a collision because another driver failed to service his or her vehicle, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your damages. Our top-rated lawyers for vehicle accident claims in DC are ready to help you find out if you have a valid claim. Contact our law offices to learn about your possible legal options.
How Do Drivers Know When Their Cars Need Maintenance?
A driver does not need to be a certified mechanic or even know a lot about cars to take care of one. You can start by following the manufacturer’s recommendations for when your vehicle is due for routine servicing. The vehicle owner’s manual should tell you when the vehicle is due for oil changes and having fluids checked and replaced. It is also reasonable to expect drivers to:
- Inspect tires for pressure, tread and alignment
- Check the wear and functionality of brakes/brake pads
- Have cracks or chips in the windshield fixed immediately
- Get all lights checked, including turn signals, brake lights and taillights and head lamps
Being diligent about regular maintenance can help you to avoid many major issues with your vehicle, especially if the car is newer.
When Could Drivers Be Liable for a Vehicle Malfunction?
Routine servicing is only one part of caring for your vehicle. It is also the driver/registered owner’s responsibility to monitor their vehicle for unexpected problems that could arise. Drivers who ignore signs of potential issues or malfunctions can be held liable for damages if a crash results. Following a crash investigation, the other side may find there is reasonable evidence you knew or should have known about an issue and did not take steps to fix it.
What Unexpected Malfunctions Could Drivers Be Responsible for?
Sometimes, there may be noticeable signs that the car is not operating normally, even if you are not sure what may be wrong. Examples of how this could happen include if:
- You hear unusual noises: Unfamiliar sounds are often an early warning sign that your car needs maintenance. For example, if you hear a loud squealing noise as you start the car, it may be a sign your serpentine belt is going bad. Depending on the type of car you have, this belt could be attached to important mechanical components, such as your alternator.
- The vehicle feels different: For instance, say you have difficulty turning or it feels like the steering wheel is pulling you in a certain direction. This could mean your vehicle is out of alignment. The steering components could also be malfunctioning.
- Fluid is leaking under the car: Liquids leaking from under the car could just be condensation from the air conditioner. If it is, the puddle will look very watery. However, if the puddle is thicker or a different color, your vehicle could be leaking other fluids, such as engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid or coolant. If you see anything that does not look like water, you should have your vehicle checked right away.
- There are braking issues: Spongy, screeching or grinding sounds while braking could mean worn brake pads or rotors.
- You see warning lights on your dashboard: These lights pop up to alert you to other potential problems with your car. Some issues, such as tire pressure being low, are an easier fix. Others, such as if you have transmission problems, could be more serious.
- The engine hesitates to start: Cars should start up immediately and without any hesitation. If your car is hesitating, it could be your battery needs replacing or you may have other issues, such as a faulty igniter switch.
While all these issues may sound complicated, the good news is that you do not have to try to figure out the problem yourself. In short, if something does not look, feel, sound or smell right with your car, it is a good idea to get it resolved immediately.
Car crashes caused by poor vehicle maintenance happen more often than you think. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about 45,000 crashes happen each year due to vehicle malfunction and poor maintenance. Failing to maintain and service your vehicle is about more than just ignoring your legal duty of care. You could be putting yourself and others at risk for serious or even fatal injuries.
What If My Vehicle Malfunctions Even Though I Had it Serviced?
Despite your best efforts to properly maintain your vehicle, sometimes you may end up with a defective auto part or bad repair. If this happens, the auto mechanic who did the bad repair or the manufacturer of the defective part could be held liable for the damages.
Need a Trusted Attorney for Legal Help After a Crash?
Were you injured in a crash due to another driver’s failure to properly maintain his or her vehicle? If so, we are prepared to help. At Goldberg Finnegan, injury victims stand to benefit from a knowledgeable and dedicated legal team. Our firm has decades of experience and a proven track record, obtaining more than $130 million for our clients. There is no cost or legal obligation for an initial consultation. If we end up representing you, there is nothing to pay us up front or while we handle your case. We do not get paid unless we win compensation for you.