Safety tech in cars has come a long way over the past few decades. Backup cameras, lane assist, automatic braking – all the features are supposed to help keep us safe on the roads. Before driving a car was like using a computer, though, the most “high tech” safety feature you could have was an air bag, an inflatable cushion that would pop out of the front (and maybe sides) of your car in the event of a crash.
Air bags have saved tens of thousands of lives over the years, though they are not without flaws. The biggest automotive recall in American history was the Takata airbag recall. All told, at least 19 people died and 400 people were injured in the U.S. because of a defect in the propellant used to inflate the airbags. You would think, then, that manufacturers would learn a lesson and be more careful when it comes to these devices.
And apparently, you would be thinking wrong. BMW of North America is facing a class action lawsuit which alleges that a design flaw in the cupholders in certain BMWs can cause the airbags to deploy without warning. From the lawsuit:
The cup holders in the Class Vehicles are designed defectively because they are not designed, nor intended, to actually hold cups filled with liquid. When liquid spills into the cup holder, the wires for the SRS (airbag) control module, which sits directly underneath cup holder, get wet and are damaged, causing damage to the air bags. As a result, the air bags can inadvertently deploy.
The defect exposes the driver and occupants of the Class Vehicles, as well as others who share the road with them, to an increased risk of accident, injury, or death.
The good news, per Jalopnik, is that no one has been hurt because of the design flaw. A few different drivers were cited in the lawsuit, and one anecdote cited by The Drive claims that when one person brought their car into the dealership after seeing a “restraint malfunction” warning, “a representative claimed that liquid had leaked onto the SRS control module, which caused the fault.” From this, we can assume that BMW is at least aware of the flaw.
The bad news is that BMW apparently doesn’t care; it’s refusing to cover the costs of the repair, even for under-warranty vehicles. At this time, no recall has been issued, either.
Does a vehicle recall matter when it comes to defective parts?
Yes and no. On the one hand, auto manufacturers recall vehicles pretty regularly, often before anyone has actually suffered harm, for defective or malfunctioning parts. When a recall is issued, you don’t have to pay for the repairs. And just because a vehicle hasn’t been recalled doesn’t mean it won’t be (eventually) or that you don’t have a viable claim for compensation if you do get hurt. In that regard, a recall doesn’t matter.
On the other hand, no official recall = you’re on the hook to pay for repairs, which is what’s happening to BMW owners all over the country. Furthermore, dealerships are not required to tell you if a car has been recalled, so even if BMW finally does the right thing, you may not know unless the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) gets involved.
Why BMW’s design flaw could potentially harm thousands of people
If Takata taught us anything as drivers, it’s that unexpected airbag deployment is a life-threatening problem. It’s not just that people can be injured by the airbag itself (although it does happen); it’s that an unexpected deployment puts everyone at risk. When your airbag goes off while you’re driving 65mph on I-40 in moderate Nashville traffic, three things are likely to happen:
- You lose control of the car and crash into someone else, or
- You jam the brakes and get hit by someone else, or
- You lose control of the car AND jam your brakes (in either order) and get hit by someone else.
In almost every scenario, there’s a risk you’ll be injured, and a risk that other people in other vehicles will be hurt, especially if there are multiple vehicles involved.
Yet despite these risks, BMW won’t recall the car and fix the problem.
Filing an injury lawsuit for a defective auto part in Nashville
To be successful in an auto defect claim, you need to prove a few things:
- That the product had a design and/or manufacturing flaw, and/or that there was a failure to warn consumers about potential side effects or issues. In the BMW case, there is a design flaw in their cup holders which could lead to unexpected airbag deployment, AND BMW has failed to warn their customers of this potential problem.
- You were using the product as intended. It’s a cup holder, which means it may hold anything from your wallet to your Chapstick to your cup.
- You suffered some type of injury and/or loss. In this case, assuming the airbag deployed unexpectedly, and you were in a car crash a result, you can claim…
- That your injuries and losses stem from the defective product.
But how can you prove any of this?
This is where Rocky McElhaney Law Firm comes in. Our team will conduct its own investigation into what happened during the collision. We will review any video surveillance available, the condition of the road at the moment of impact, and the damage to your car and any other vehicles involved. We will analyze the police statement as well as your medical records, including any treatment plan designed by your doctor. In this way, we can build a case to show the full extent of your injuries and losses.
If you suffer injuries in a car accident in Nashville related to a defective product, Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can help you seek justice. We’ve been fighting for the injured for years, and we’re ready to fight for you, too. To schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville, please call 615.425.2500, or fill out our contact form.