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Who Is Responsible When an Accident Is Caused by Mechanical Failure?

We spend a fair amount of time on this blog discussing a wide variety of driving errors that lead to automobile accidents and their resulting injuries. In such circumstances, the negligence is often easy to identify. Examples include distracted drivingspeedingfollowing too closely, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

But sometimes car accidents, semi-truck crashes, and motorcycle wrecks are caused by mechanical failure. In these cases, it may take a little more investigation to determine exactly who is at fault. In this article, we will discuss some examples of accidents caused by mechanical failure and who may be legally responsible for them when they occur.

Types of Mechanical Failures that Cause Accidents

Cars and trucks can mechanically fail or underperform in many ways. Below are a few examples of mechanical failure.

  • Brake failure
  • Steering failure
  • Air bag failure
  • Tire failure
  • Defective engine, transmission, and other parts
  • Defectively manufactured parts and components

Determining Responsibility and Liability for Mechanical Failures

Most of us have experienced some type of mechanical failure with our automobiles. Luckily, in many cases we are not injured and do not spend a great deal of time assigning blame. For example, a tire may go flat in the driveway, or a battery may go dead in a parking lot. These circumstances are a nuisance but do not cause injury.

On the other hand, many people have suffered injury and death from tire blowouts and other malfunctions while driving. In such a circumstance, further investigation would be required to determine liability.

Products Liability Law

Using our tire blowout example above, investigation might reveal that a manufacturing defect existed in the tire which caused it to malfunction. In such a case, a products liability case would be appropriate against the manufacturer. There have been many such cases through the years. Few things are more dangerous than a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed that suddenly and unexpectedly loses a tire.

Another example of potential legal responsibility under products liability law is the failure of an airbag to deploy correctly.


Continuing with our tire blowout example, assume that the tire was manufactured correctly but it blew out or came off the rim because the tire was installed incorrectly by a local mechanic or tire retailer. In that case, relief might be pursued in a negligence action against the person who installed the tire and/or the business for whom the installer worked.

Similar examples include mechanics who make repair mistakes that later lead to accidents. For example, mistakes installing brake pads or other negligent brake repairs can lead to horrific accidents.

Questions of Ownership and Responsibility

Sometimes, leases and other legal arrangements create issues that affect legal responsibility, especially when commercial enterprises are involved. For example, consider a semi-truck accident that occurs due to brake failure caused by inadequate maintenance. The tractor and trailer may be owned by separate companies. The actual company for whom the driver works may also be unclear at first blush.

Determining exactly what caused the accident and which entity was responsible for the brake maintenance is imperative. It is definitely advisable to have an attorney help you resolve these issues so that the correct party or parties are sued.

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by mechanical failure or another driver’s negligence, you will almost certainly have questions about how to investigate the cause of the accident and evaluate the value of your case. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have experience investigating and analyzing these types of cases all across Oregon. Please call us for a free consultation and we will be happy to answer all of your questions.

And if you decide that you need representation, we can also help you deal with insurance companieswork toward settlement, and handle a trial, if necessary. We fight hard for our clients because we believe that it is necessary to hold negligent actors accountable for their actions in order to make society safer for all of us.