Common Vehicle Defects That Lead to Auto Accidents

Categories: Auto Accident

Car defects leading to accidents.

Every year, millions of Americans get into car accidents. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the results of a two-year crash causation study that cited driver distraction and error as the leading cause of these accidents. However, the study specified that driver error was the last critical event that caused the accident. In other words, there may have been other factors, such as a mechanical failure, that happened first—but the driver’s response was the final critical error that caused the crash. The study also found that the second leading cause of crashes followed far behind the first cause of driver error but was still significant, as it resulted in over 44,000 accidents per year. The second leading cause is the malfunction of some part or system in the vehicle.

Defective Products

When you buy a new car, you expect it to work properly. But any product that humans create in a factory may come off the assembly line imperfect. Many imperfections go unnoticed because they are cosmetic or have no real impact on the functionality of the overall product. However, sometimes product defects cause injury. This is true of every manufactured product on the market from toys to the home you are living in. But when you are talking about a vehicle that moves at fast speeds on roads shared with millions of other drivers, a functional defect can be fatal.

Before we move on to looking at common vehicle defects that lead to auto accidents, it may help to have a basic understanding of product liability laws. Essentially, there are three types of product liability:

  • Design defects—the way someone designed the product was inherently flawed;
  • Manufacturing defects—even if the design is perfect, something can go wrong as the company manufactures the product; and
  • Marketing defects—these occur when the seller knows about a danger but fails to warn the consumer.

You can bring a product liability claim if you get injured and can show that one or more of these types of defects existed. Now let’s move to a discussion of specific automotive defects that cause auto vehicle accidents.

Specific Automotive Defects That Cause Car Accidents

Some parts of your car are more likely than others to cause an accident if a defect exists. Here is a list of the most common vehicle defects that lead to auto accidents.

Ignition Switches

If the ignition device in your car does not work properly, it can cause major problems. A recent GM case is the perfect illustration of this fact. According to Consumer Reports, GM had to recall approximately 2.5 million cars because of a defective ignition switch. The problem with this switch was that any movement or even a heavy key ring could cause the device to flip into the “off” mode. If the ignition turns off unexpectedly, it shuts down the power in the car. If something cuts off the power, that means that the power steering and power brakes shut off—and accidents can quickly follow. According to another Consumer Reports article, more than 160 people have made claims against GM for injuries resulting from accidents caused by this defective ignition switch. The death count resulting from this defect currently stands at 90.


Airbags are a fantastic safety device. Isn’t it ironic, then, that defective airbags can cause serious injury to a driver or passenger? The trouble begins when airbags deploy when they should not. Airbags are supposed to deploy upon impact to the car. But sometimes they fail to deploy after impact, or they deploy as someone is driving down the road and no impact has occurred. Either way, accidents and injuries often result.

Defective Brakes

Good brakes are an obvious necessity in any motor vehicle. If you cannot stop quickly, you can crash into something. It is just that simple. But your braking system is made up of:

  • Brake pads,
  • Brake lines,
  • Cylinders, and
  • Pedals.

If there is a defect in any one of these components, braking can become difficult or impossible—and accidents happen.

Defective or Poorly Maintained Tires

Many things can go wrong with your tires. Some problems are actually the fault of the car owner, and others can be a defect inherent in the tire itself. You may be at fault if you do not properly maintain your tires by:

  • Replacing worn tires;
  • Learning how to keep them inflated to the correct pressure; or
  • Bringing them in for proper balancing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

These actions are necessary to make sure the tires you depend on will work properly. But flaws can happen when a company manufactures the tires or when they improperly install or mount the tires onto your vehicle.

Steering System

Your steering and suspension systems are intricately intertwined and operate together. When there is a flaw in any part of this system, it can make it very hard for a driver to maintain control of their vehicle. Flaws can occur in hydraulic lines, power steering pumps, tie rods, or any other part of this critical operational system.


Obviously, the engine in your car is a critical component that must be in working order. If a design or manufacturing defect occurs that causes the engine to seize up, that can result in the driver losing control of the car. A malfunctioning transmission can also lead to an accident.

We Have the Experience You Need

The attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Connor, PLLC, have over 40 years of experience serving injured victims in Washington. Our peers in the legal industry have recognized Dean Brett as a “Super Lawyer” for 12 straight years, and Dean Brett, Paula McCandlis, and David Brown have all achieved the coveted 10 out of 10 “Superb” rating on the Avvo national rating service. On top of all that, we have impressive case results that can assure you that when you come to us, you can expect world-class legal representation. We pride ourselves in one on one contact and interaction with our clients. We will be honest with you about both the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and we will not stop fighting for you. You can put your trust in us. So give us a call at 1-206-489-3231 to set up your free initial consultation, or contact us online today.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.