How Fast did Your Airbags Deploy in a Recent Auto Accident?

How fast did your airbags deploy in a recent auto accident?

It was not that long ago that car manufacturers were trying to prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from requiring all passenger vehicles be equipped with automated safety technologies, such as airbags, to save lives.   That argument is over and now each manufacturer is trying to make those airbags safer and faster, to further reduce injuries during an accident.

John Wickersham was a pharmacist at a hospital.   He was driving back from working a night shift at the hospital. While attempting a left turn, the Ford Escape that he was driving went through an intersection, hit the curb, then struck a tree on the passenger side.  In the accident, Mr. Wickersham broke a rib, his upper jaw, and his left cheek bones. He also fractured his skull and ruptured his left eye.  The Ford Escort’s airbag deployed, but it was too late for Mr. Wickersham, who had permanent injuries, causing him to suffer from extreme pain on a continuous basis.

There were many surgeries performed to try to help Mr. Wickersham heal and recover, but he had to stay on many pain medications to deal with the extreme pain.  He was unable to work, which affected his finances and resulted in further emotional trauma.  Also, Mr. Wickersham had history of a mental illness. He became suicidal and, a month before he committed suicide at age 55, a psychiatrist recommended that he be hospitalized to protect him from his suicidal thoughts.  His wife sued Ford Motor Company for negligence, strick liability and breach of warranty.  She claimed that the airbag deployed too late, and was, thus, defective, as there were better airbag designs that would have deployed faster.  She also claimed that his death was the result of the accident.

In its defense, Ford Motor Co. argued that the alternative designs proposed by the plaintiff do not count as legitimate designs, as they were “purely conceptual.”  Ford also argued that Mr. Wickersham’s wife cannot sue for wrongful death, as he had commited suicide.  Finally, Ford argued that Mrs. Wickersham cannot recover puntiive damages, because there was no evidence that Ford acted recklessly, willfully or wantonly towards the victim’s rights.  In denying Ford’s motion for summary judgment, the court reviewed all of the evidnece and allowed the trial to proceed against Ford.

A jury was empannelled and heard all the evidence presented by both sides.  The trial lasted 10 days.  This was in an area of the country that is considered to be a very conservative.  Despite his suicide, the jury decided that Ford Motor Co. was responsible for the wrongful death of Mr. Wickersham.  The jury awarded $4.65 million to Mr. Wickersham’s widow.  The jury did not find the evidence sufficient to award punitive damages against Ford.  Ford has appealed.

 

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Lemon Law Buybacks-California

Lemon Law buybacks California Lemon Law Attorney

The California Lemon Law, has several rules that the consumer or small business must follow to complete a successful lemon law buyback of a new motor vehicle.  What is the first rule?  Rule #1: at the first sign of a problem, bring your vehicle to an authorized dealer.  If you are not sure who is an authorized dealership in your area, you can call the customer service phone number listed in your owner’s manual or warranty booklet to find out, but it does not need to be the dealership that sold or leased the vehicle to you.  Any authorized dealer can perform warranty repairs.

Why is this Rule #1?  Because, to get the manufacturer or distributor to buyback a new motor vehicle, you and your lawyer will need to present evidence that the vehicle was or became defective, through no fault of the owner.  This usually requires a paper trail of reasonable repair attempts with an authorized dealer.

Also, under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (California’s version of the “Lemon Law” that is most important to consumers and businesses for vehicle problems), the manufacturer is allowed to deduct for mileage on the vehicle before the first repair attempt.  For example, if a vehicle is purchased with 100 miles on the odometer and the consumer follows the advice and brings the vehicle to a dealer when the concern first appears at 1100 miles, the manufacturer is allowed an offset for the 900 miles used by the consumer.  In contrast, if the same consumer waits until 5500 miles, then the manufacturer’s office will be much larger, because it will be based on 5400 miles used.

There is an actual calculation in California’s Lemon Law at Cal. Civil Code, Section 1793.2, Subdivision (d)(2)( C).  To compute the actual offset under this section, take the actual purchase price paid or payable, including transportation charges and factory options, divide that by 120,000 miles, then multiply it by the number of miles when the vehicle was first brought to an authorized dealer for the concern.  Let’s see how this computes using the previous example and assuming a purchase price of $25,000: with 900 miles used, the offset would be $187.50, but with 5400 miles used, the office would be $1125.00, a difference of $937.50.

If you are like many people, a difference of $937.50 out of a $25,000 purchase price is not small change. It might represent two, three or more car payments!  Manufacturers eagerly enforce this offset amount (not always accurately) when they do decide to offer a vehicle buyback.  Even if you are slammed, just bring your vehicle to a dealer as soon as you notice each concern.  That first time, one never knows if it is a random problem or the first repair attempt in a string of efforts to try to fix a defect.

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