According to an article in today's Fulton County Daily Report (subscription required), a west Georgia auto shop has agreed to pay almost $1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that its negligent maintenance of a truck's brakes led to a head-on collision that caused permanent injuries to a young mother. The lawsuit, filed in Schley County Superior Court by Macon attorney Brian Adams, alleged that the plaintiff, who is in her mid-30s, sustained a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones, requiring nearly six months of medical treatment. The driver of the vehicle that collided with her claimed that his brakes failed. The plaintiff then sought to recover damages against the repair shop that had serviced and inspected the brakes, with the evidence showing an empty brake fluid reservoir and nonfunctional right rear brake.
It is not uncommon for at-fault drivers to claim that a mechanical problem led to the crash. In these cases, we very often find that defendants are unable to show that there is actually a mechanical problem. On the other hand, we occasionally come across mechanical problems that may have led to the collision. If the problem resulted from defective maintenance, as in the Schley County case, the auto mechanic may be liable, along with the defendant driver. In one case our firm handled, for example, a vehicle's tie rod broke, following repair work that had been recently performed, causing a wreck that injured our client. We ultimately recovered from the auto shop's insurance company on his behalf.
If the problem resulted from a lack of maintenance (such as brakes that should have been, but were not, serviced, or tires that are in a poor condition), the owner and driver of the vehicle may face liability, regardless of whether they were negligently driving. And in some cases, a design or manufacturing defect in the vehicle may give rise to a claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle or component part that failed. Tire and airbag defects, for example, are commonly found to be defective, and can cause accidents or increase the severity of an otherwise minor collision.