Auto Accidents Newsletters
The basic elements of proof that a plaintiff has to establish in a products liability action against the manufacturer or seller of a motor vehicle are that the vehicle as sold contained a defect that created an unreasonable risk of death, personal injury or property damage when the vehicle was put to its intended use and that the defect caused an accident or similar incident, such as a vehicle fire, that resulted in the loss or damage for which the plaintiff seeks to recover damages. Vehicle defects can include shortcomings in the design of a vehicle, mistakes in the manufacture of its component parts or in their assembly into a complete car or truck and failure to warn the purchaser or operator of a risk inherent in the use and operation of the vehicle. Manufacturers have a number of defenses available to them in seeking to prevent a plaintiff from succeeding in an automotive products liability action.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be used by an insurance company and an insured to settle a dispute between themselves regarding uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage as well as other disputes. The alternative to mediation would be a lawsuit. In mediation, a third person, who has experience with insurance disputes, meets with the insurance company and the insured to try to work out a solution on which both parties can agree.
Most automobile insurance policies have a clause that requires an insured to cooperate with the insurance company. The cooperation clause, also known as the cooperation and assistance provision, requires an insured to act in a manner that does not obstruct an insurance company's handling of a claim against an insurance policy. Further, the cooperation clause seeks to stop insureds and claimants from acting together against insurance companies. To breach the cooperation clause, an insured's obstructive conduct must be willful and must prejudice the insurance company.
Some automobile insurance policies have clauses that specifically exclude the payment of punitive or exemplary damages against an insured. Punitive or exemplary damages do not pay for bodily injuries or property damage. They are awarded over and above payment for those items. Punitive or exemplary damages are intended to punish the person who caused the injuries or damage or to make that person an example to deter others from such conduct.
A plaintiff in an automotive products liability action is generally required to prove that a motor vehicle as sold contained a defect in its design, in the way in which it was manufactured or assembled or in the failure to warn of a risk inherent in its operation that created an unreasonable risk of death, personal injury or property damage when the vehicle was used for its intended purpose and that the defect caused an accident or similar incident, such as a vehicle fire, that resulted in the loss or damage for which the plaintiff seeks to recover damages. Because proof of the existence of such conditions does not involve passing judgment on the conduct of the manufacturer, but merely on the status of the vehicle as sold, the plaintiff in such a case can ordinarily recover only his or her actual damages, which can include economic losses and damages for non-economic losses based on the jury's determination of the dollar value of the pain and suffering resulting from the accident. Sometimes, though, the manufacturer's conduct in dealing with the alleged vehicle defect becomes an issue in the case, and the plaintiff may then attempt to recover punitive damages in addition to the actual damages suffered.