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Elements of a Motor Vehicle Defect Claim

Airbags and lap or shoulder belts together are very effective, but there are circumstances when inflating airbags have caused serious injuries, even deaths.

Learn More About Motor Vehicle Defects Claims

At Kolker & Germeroth, L.L.C., we provide an aggressive pursuit of justice for the victims of injuries that occur as a result of motor vehicle defects in St. Louis and throughout Missouri. To learn more about our practice in this area, visit our Car Parts Defects page.

Below we have included some helpful information about motor vehicle defects. To find out more about how our attorneys can help you with your specific legal needs, contact us today.

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Motor vehicle defect claims require the help of experienced trial lawyers. Each of our lawyers has more than 15 years of experience and has secured verdicts and settlements for our clients in excess of $1 million.

If you or a loved one has been hurt due to motor vehicle defects or manufacturing negligence, contact our firm today for a free initial consultation.

Elements of a Motor Vehicle Defect Claim

Unlike an ordinary personal injury claim for negligence, in order to establish a vehicle manufacturer or seller's liability for a vehicle defect in most states, you do not need to show that the manufacturer or seller was careless or that the carelessness led to your accident or injury. Instead, liability in motor vehicle defect cases is usually controlled by the doctrine of strict liability.

If you have been injured by a defective motor vehicle, contact Kolker & Germeroth, LLC in Clayton, Missouri, today to schedule a consultation with an experienced product liability attorney.

Regardless of what safety steps a manufacturer or dealer claims it takes in making and 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 as a driver, passenger, or otherwise. The defect can come into existence either in the design of the vehicle, during manufacture, during handling or shipment, including 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. Reasonably foreseeable use of a vehicle includes its involvement in collisions with another vehicle, so a manufacturer's duty in designing a vehicle includes the duty to come up with a design that is reasonably safe in the event of a collision. The result is that the absence of certain safety features may result in a determination that the vehicle is defectively designed.
  • The vehicle had not been substantially changed from the condition in which it was originally sold. "Substantially" means in such a way that the performance of the vehicle is affected.


The vehicle manufacturer or the seller may have a defense to your strict liability claim, 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.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are intended to punish vehicle manufacturers and encourage them to fix inherent defects in vehicle designs that have resulted in injury. An interesting recent trend in vehicle product liability cases is a higher monetary level for awards of punitive damages in successful claims against manufacturers or sellers. These punitive damages awards are above and beyond damages that compensate plaintiffs for their injuries and can sometimes range into the tens of millions of dollars.

Traditionally, vehicle manufacturers have engaged in what is known as a "cost-benefit" analysis when deciding whether to change a potentially defective vehicle design. In this process, the manufacturer will calculate the cost of implementing a design change, including vehicle recalls and repairs, and weigh that cost against the potential cost of litigation and settlement after the defect causes injuries. Punitive damages are often awarded in order to add to the potential costs a manufacturer will face if it decides not to fix a design defect, thus shifting the cost-benefit analysis toward the elimination of defects.

Contact a Product Liability Lawyer

If you have been injured by a defective motor vehicle, contact Kolker & Germeroth, LLC in Clayton, Missouri, today to schedule a consultation with a product liability attorney to discuss whether a strict liability claim is possible in your situation.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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