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Personal Injuries Resulting from Defective Automobile Designs

This week, a court in Essex County, New Jersey awarded a man $4.2 million for injuries he sustained during an automobile accident, which resulted from defects in the design of the roof on his Nissan Altima. In 2006, the now 52 year old man was driving along the New Jersey shore when a 73 pound tire detached from a nearby pickup truck. The tire struck the man’s Nissan Altima, cracking its roof. The roof pushed the man’s head forward and pressed his chin into his chest. The man sustained multiple injuries, including a fractured neck. The Court held that Nissan was liable for the man’s injuries because the header panel which was used in his car and all Nissan Altimas from 2002 until 2006 was defective. According to the Court, if the header had been affixed to the sides of the roof’s skeleton, which is common in most vehicles, the injuries could have been prevented.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), approximately 6 million car accidents occur on American roads every year. These accidents cause a total of 42,000 fatalities and 2.75 million injuries. Automobile defects cause or contribute to a significant number of these accidents. Between 1966 and the present, NHTSA has required car manufacturers to recall in excess of 390 million motor vehicles and over 100 million motor vehicle components and tires due to safety defects.


Automobile defects can be the result of mistakes made in the manufacturing process, design flaws, or inadequate warnings or directions. In order to prove that an automobile design was defective, it must be proven that the design was “unreasonably dangerous.” This can be proven in two ways. First, by showing that the design involved significantly more danger than the driver would reasonably expect. Second, by showing that the design’s risks clearly outweighed its benefits. An example of how this may be proved is showing that another, equally effective design with less potential for doing harm was available for use by the manufacturer.


If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident where an automobile defect may have been a contributing factor, you should speak to an attorney immediately. An attorney will be able to preserve your legal rights and ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries. The attorney may consult with a forensic automotive engineer in cases involving defective automobile design. A forensic automotive engineer has the expertise necessary to determine whether an automobile design was defective based on an investigation of the accident, interviews with eyewitnesses, and analysis of evidence from the scene of the accident. Additionally, the attorney may call a forensic automotive engineer as an expert witness during trial. This relationship can benefit car accident victims by helping prove to the court that their injuries were the result of a defective automobile design.