While faulty door latches occasionally cause car accidents, when they do, they cause catastrophic, life-changing injuries or death to car occupants. Since defective vehicle door latches can significantly affect a vehicle’s crashworthiness, manufacturers should ensure the latches function effectively. When they fail to meet this obligation, they can be subject to civil liability for your injuries and losses.

The legal aftermath of a crash in Sacramento can be complicated, and you can experience challenges with the insurance provider compensating you. Instead of handling the claim alone, seek the legal assistance of Foos Gavin Law Firm. When you contact us, we can collect evidence, investigate the case, determine the defendant, and ensure you receive compensation that makes you whole again.

An Overview of Defective Door Latch-Related Car Accidents

One catastrophic car collision occurs when a crash causes a defective latch to open, injecting car occupants from the vehicle and causing severe injuries. Recently, vehicle safety standards have been increased to protect car users. Nevertheless, defective car latch accidents continue to rise in Sacramento and throughout the county.

In 1996, General Motors was singled out by car accident victims, personal injury attorneys, and product liability lawyers who claimed defective door latch challenges caused severe injuries.

Recently, Ford Motor Company has been in the spotlight for latch defects lawsuits where attorneys claimed that its failure to manufacture and design safe door latches had placed car users in significant danger.

Consequently, the suits and complaints bound Ford to recall Ford F-150 between 2015 and 2017. The company also recalled:

  • 2005 Ford Five Hundreds
  • Mercury Montego
  • 1997-2000 Ford F-250 Super Light Duty trucks
  • 2005-2006 Ford Freestyles
  • 1997-2000 Ford Expeditions
  • 2012-2014 Ford Fiestas

With the crashworthiness regulations for door retention components and door locks enforced in 1970, car manufacturers should use latches on cars that can withstand thirty times the force of gravity during a collision. Crashworthiness is a vehicle’s ability to withstand a crash while protecting its occupants from sustaining injuries. Injured drivers and passengers can file lawsuits against car manufacturers and other defendants accountable for manufacturing and selling faulty cars. Filing a lawsuit helps victims receive compensation for injuries and losses suffered.

Some instances of defective door latches include:

  • Jamming and locking a door latch — It is typical for a door latch to stop functioning after an accident, compromising the safety and lives of the occupants. The accident can damage the car fuel tank, and if there are sparks or heat and the vehicle uses flammable gas, it can burst into fire. If the latch jams, it will be challenging for occupants to leave the vehicle and for people from outside to rescue them, resulting in burns or death.
  • Door latch releasing occupants during an accident — When an ejection from a car happens, car occupants are more likely to sustain injuries. If, for instance, a person is ejected and collides with an oncoming automobile, they will be injured.
  • Door latches releasing during hazardous weather conditions — Sometimes latches malfunction during harsh weather conditions. For instance, your remote rod can heat up and expand during scorching weather. It can cause the rod to release the latch, randomly opening the car door. If a loved one is leaning against a moving car’s door, ejection can result in death or injuries.
  • Broken door rods — When a faulty car door latch causes the remote rods to break off, you cannot use your door handle. Moreover, the broken remote rod can penetrate the protective layer on your vehicle door, exposing you to pricks and tears when you sit too close to the door. In this case, you are exposed to a safety hazard that can result in an injury when the car shifts position abruptly.

Causes of Faulty Auto Door Latches Car Accident

Some of the causes of defective door latches-related accidents include:

Faulty Latch Design

A door latch is defective if:

  • Your door latch failed to perform to your safety expectations despite using it appropriately
  • The door’s latch design failed to provide adequate protection (The manufacturer created an attractive design but did not comply with safety measures)

Manufacturing Defects

A manufacturing defect in a door latch occurs when parts that make up or join the latch fail to meet required National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards.

Generally, at this point, the NHTSA has already approved the door latch. Nevertheless, something might have gone wrong when assembling the latch’s parts, making it a hazardous product.

Manufacturing defects happen due to substandard manufacturing materials, manufacturer’s errors, or broken manufacturing machinery.

Mechanical Challenges

Mechanical problems happen when small parts and internal gears malfunction. Other causes include a screw loosening up due to tear and wear.

Insufficient Guidelines for Using the Door Latches

The law requires manufacturers to offer consumers guidelines explaining how their devices operate and how consumers should handle them. If the latch is manual, this information should be in the instruction pamphlet.

Information/Warning Defects

There are two types of defects, namely:

  • Warning defect — The manufacturer did not offer information and warning signs about the dangerous aspect of the door latch
  • Information defect — The manufacturer did not give the vehicle buyer guidelines on handling the car latches.

Broken Remote Rod

A remote rod joins the latch to your car’s door. During a collision, the remote rod can bend, forcing your door to open.

Wrong Door Latch Installation

An improper installation makes the fixture malfunction. An incorrectly installed latch increases the probability of sustaining severe injuries after being injected from a moving car.

Determining Responsibility in Your Defective Door Latch

Before receiving compensation, you must establish that the defendant was responsible for your injuries and losses using the following elements:

  • The defendant manufactured the defective car door latch
  • The product had a defect when it left the defendant’s possession
  • You used the door latch in a reasonably foreseeable manner
  • You suffered harm due to the defect

Reasonably Foreseeable

The law requires manufacturers to anticipate how consumers will use or misuse their products.

If how the consumer uses or misuses their product was reasonably foreseeable, and the use or misuse hurts a person, the defendant will be at fault. It does not necessarily mean the manufacturer should eliminate the danger. Most products are inherently hazardous when misused.

However, individuals who make hazardous products should take reasonable measures to reduce the damage that can originate from them. Depending on the circumstances, it can involve:

  • Manufacturing the product
  • Designing the product
  • Inspecting their product
  • Issuing satisfactory warnings about its hazards

The jury should determine whether the defendant took reasonable measures and whether the plaintiff’s use was reasonably foreseeable.

Liable Parties in Defective Door Latch Lawsuits and Claims

Your skilled personal injury attorney should investigate the matter to determine the liable party. The defendant can be:

  • The vehicle manufacturer — Before releasing a vehicle model to the market, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) require that the car manufacturer adheres to the mandatory standards. The manufacturer should ensure the vehicle door latch is safe to handle in ordinary driving circumstances. Otherwise, the plaintiffs can hold the manufacturer liable for damages and injuries.
  • Wholesalers and shippers — When a car leaves its manufacturer’s warehouse, the sellers and distributors should ensure every car part is in good shape when a consumer makes a purchase. If the wholesalers and shippers were negligent when storing or transporting the vehicle and you were injured in an accident, you could sue negligent distributors for selling a defective product.
  • Car dealers — Sometimes manufacturers abide by safety standards for the latches, and distributors ensure the vehicle is in good condition when reaching the dealer. If the door latch is destroyed at the dealership, you can take legal action against the dealer if you sustain injuries in a collision.
  • Auto spare part sellers — The law requires auto parts retailers to give car owners functional and genuine door latches. That means the seller can face accountability for selling a faulty latch that caused an accident.

Door Latch Failure Injuries

Car occupants depend on the door remaining intact upon impact in an accident. When that fails, the occupants can be ejected from the automobile, which is catastrophic, particularly in a T-bone, broadside, side-impact, or rollover accident.

Also, an individual hurled outside the vehicle can hit an obstacle on the roadway, pavement, or another car. Consequently, the victim can suffer life-altering injuries due to extended medical care, therapy, and rehabilitation, and loss of months of earning capacity if the injured person cannot return to their work.

Latch defects can cause injuries like:

Traumatic Brain Injury

When a defective door latch fails, the door can detach from your car and expose you to hazardous external obstacles and debris. Consequently, you can sustain TBI after hitting your head against a hard surface. The skull protects the brain, and if the head suffers trauma.

A TBI can affect many aspects of the victim’s physical well-being. It can lead to physical effects like loss of vision or mobility. A person with TBI will experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Loss of memory
  • Dizziness
  • Change of mood
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Spinal Cord Injuries

Trauma to your spinal cord can cause a spinal cord injury.

Your symptoms depend on the location of the injury on your spinal cord. For instance, injuries to the spinal cord near your neck can cause paralysis from the neck down. On the other hand, injuries to the spinal cord in your lower back can cause partial paralysis of the legs.

Due to the detrimental consequences of this injury, you should retain an experienced attorney immediately. There are numerous steps you should take, and the sooner you have legal representation, the more likely favorable case results.

Burn Injuries

You can suffer severe burns if trapped in a car that catches fire. Any part of your skin can be damaged during the accident. Burn injuries range from minor to severe and can sometimes be life-threatening.

If you sustained burn injuries in an auto accident, a medical doctor should examine you to determine your injuries’ severity. Burns are classified based on the size of the burned area and how deep they are. Different forms of burn injuries include:

  • First-degree burn — It damages your skin’s epidermis and causes pain and redness. It can heal on its own.
  • Second-degree burn damages the epidermis and dermis, causing blisters, pain, and swelling.
  • Third-degree burn reaches the skin’s innermost layers and can appear blackened or charred.
  • Fourth-degree burn damages all skin layers and can reach bones and muscles.

Treatment of these injuries depends on their seriousness. Doctors can cover the burned region using topical creams and sterile bandages to fight infections and prepare your wound to close. While you can treat a minor burn at home, severe burns require pain medication, IV fluids, and surgery. You can require skin grafts to cover huge burn injuries, physical therapy, and rehabilitation for months.

It is essential to secure immediate medical attention since the injuries can result in complications like:

  • Low body temperature
  • Permanent scarring
  • Amputation
  • Dehydration and fluid loss
  • Breathing or respiratory challenges from smoke inhalation
  • Bacterial infection

Laceration Injuries

A laceration happens when muscles, skin, or tissue is severed. It happens during a car accident from broken glass when a person is ejected from the vehicle and injured by hitting the road or when the victim comes into contact with a sharp object.

Here are the different types of lacerations:

  • Cut laceration occurs when a sharp substance contacts and breaks through the epidermis.
  • Grinding compression happens when an object hits your skin in a brushing motion at an angle, lifts your skin, and peels it back, compromising the epidermis and crushing your tissue underneath.
  • Over-stretching — Occurs when a substance strikes the skin at an angle and pulls and pushes the skin, causing the skin to stretch or break.
  • Split laceration — This happens when two objects crush a body part.

You should seek immediate and intensive treatment, especially if:

  • You suffered deep lacerations
  • The injury occurred over your joint
  • The lacerations cannot be cleaned sufficiently to avoid infections

Broken Bones

You can also suffer broken bone injuries depending on your point of impact. A faulty door latch can cause broken and loose door parts to land on you with a high force, resulting in broken bones.

Most car accident victims are unaware of possible bone fractures. Therefore, medical exams are essential. Your doctor should develop a treatment plan to help you recover and return to your daily routine. If not, you should undergo physiotherapy to regain your independence and mobility. 

Average Compensation Amount for Defective Door Latches Auto Accident

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 38,000 people throughout the country succumb to auto-related accidents annually. Also, the deaths led to $55 billion in work loss and medical costs, not to forget the immeasurable burden on the victims’ loved ones in 2018.

Although car collisions are expensive, there is no average compensation amount. The amount you receive depends on factors like:

  • Your injury’s severity — A plaintiff suffering from a traumatic brain injury will receive more compensation than a person with minor injuries.
  • The degree of the damages — The more income you lose or spend on your medical expenses, the higher your compensation amount.

The following types of damage are common in personal injury claims. Remember, this list is exhaustive.

  • Medical bills include compensation for surgery, doctor’s appointments, medication, hospitalization, ambulance ride, and rehabilitation expenses. The more severe injuries you suffer, the heftier your medical expenses. It can also include your future medical costs.
  • Lost income — If your car accident injuries prevent you from returning to work, you should recover the bonuses and income you could have earned or promotions you could have received.
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering include compensation for non-economic damages like physical pain, loss of consortium, disfigurement, mental anguish, and loss of life enjoyment.

You can also receive punitive damages if the defendant acted egregiously. These damages are designed to punish and prevent them from acting recklessly in the future.

How to Obtain Maximum Compensation for Your Defective Door Latch Injuries

Being injured in an auto accident can cost thousands of dollars in medical expenses on top of losses like lost income. California is a fault-based state, and you should not pay the damages out of your pocket if another person negligently caused your accident. You are entitled to pursue compensation from the defendant. However, obtaining your deserved compensation and building a solid claim require strategizing.

Call 911

You should call law enforcement officials after ensuring everyone is out of danger. Remain at your accident scene until the police arrive.

The officers will draft a police report indicating their opinion of how the accident occurred. The defendant’s insurance company will look at the police report when determining the defendant.

Collect as Much Evidence at Your Accident Scene as Possible

If possible, gather as much evidence of your accident as possible, including:

  • Photos of your injuries
  • Pictures of your car from different angles
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of the witnesses

After the police clear the accident scene, some evidence will be lost. Therefore, capture many pictures.

Seek Medical Attention

You should visit a doctor after your collision, even if you do not believe you are injured. Adrenaline can mask some injuries. Also, some injuries, like concussions, manifest hours or days after the accident.

The doctor will draft a report documenting when your injuries happened, their severity, and their relationship with the defective door latch accident. The report plays a significant role in supporting your compensation claim later. 

While it can be tempting to skip doctor’s appointments, follow them up.

Know the Insurance Company’s Tricks and Do Not Accept Its Initial Offer

Dealing with the defendant’s insurance provider is challenging to obtain compensation. After undergoing the stress of proving the defendant’s accountability, you can receive a low settlement offer. Alternatively, the insurance company can apply bad faith tricks to pressure you into settling fast.

When this occurs, you should do the following:

  • Determine how the insurance adjuster evaluated the case by asking questions — Ensure your questions are specific and use their response as your guide when making counteroffers. Moreover, their answers can assist you in deciding whether to bring a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Remain polite, relaxed, and professional — Shouting at an insurance representative will not help your case. Instead, the adjuster can use it to paint you as an untrustworthy person, putting you at a disadvantage during negotiations.
  • Present your facts — It is essential to document your entire process; present proof of your injuries, lost wages, and medical expenses. Moreover, present your independent evaluation. The stronger your evidence, the more challenging it is for the insurer to dispute whether you deserve a higher settlement.
  • Respond in writing — Written communications between you and the insurer prove what happened. If you disagree, note it down and support it with evidence.
  • Do not sign paperwork without your lawyer’s review and approval — The insurance company will want to settle your defective car door latch-related car accident for less to increase its profit margins. While the adjuster’s offer might look reasonable initially, it may not cover your future damages.

Do Not Discuss Your Personal Injury Case and Injuries

There are individuals you should speak with following your defective door latch collision and people to avoid engaging in conversations about your crash.

It would help if you spoke with the following:

  • The police — Report your accident to the police and answer their questions honestly. Avoid speculations and do not admit fault or blame others.
  • A doctor — Inform your physician that you were involved in an accident.
  • Your auto insurer — Report the car crash to your insurance provider and tell them what occurred.
  • A personal injury attorney — Your attorney can review the case facts and determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim. Knowing your available legal options is the most effective way to maximize compensation.

Resist the urge to tell and talk about your crash on social media. Do not post photos or comments on social media platforms about the collision. If you are claiming severe injuries and your Instagram has pictures of your latest social events, adjusters can use the photographs to cast doubt on the severity of the damages.

Find a Competent Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me

When a car's door latch fails to function effectively, your vehicle’s door could open, possibly ejecting the car's occupants from a moving vehicle. Defective door latches can cause severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and spinal cord injuries. You have a right to hold the manufacturer and anyone else in the distribution chain accountable.

To receive the maximum recovery, you need an attorney who can navigate and understand the intricacies of product liability law in Sacramento. Foos Gavin Law Firm can listen to you and work with you to design a legal strategy to make you whole. Do not hesitate to contact us at 916-779-3500 to schedule a free case review.