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Liability for Car Accidents Due to Mechanical Failures in South Africa

Liability for Car Accidents Due to Mechanical Failures in South Africa
Mar 27, 2024 gnuworld

According to the most recent State of Road Safety in South Africa report, mechanical failures accounted for 4% of fatal car crashes over the course of a year in South Africa.

That pales in comparison to the estimated 85% of fatal accidents that were caused by “human factors”. However, it does mean that in a single year, more than 420 fatal car accidents were caused by mechanical failures.

Many, many more non-fatal accidents are caused by mechanical failures and result in serious injuries. In this article, we explain liability for car accidents due to mechanical failures in South Africa.

Who’s liable for car crashes due to mechanical failures?

If you’re injured in a car crash due to mechanical failure, it’s natural to want to know who is to blame. Was it simply an accident or is someone at fault and liable? Determining liability is not easy.

The answer depends on the details of the accident. Usually when mechanical failure causes an accident, one of three parties may be held liable:

  • the vehicle manufacturer
  • the driver or owner of the vehicle that caused the accident
  • a mechanic or garage responsible for repairing or maintaining the vehicle.

In order for a claim to succeed, there has to be evidence of mechanical failure, and proof that the implicated party is responsible for that failure.

Vehicle manufacturers can be held strictly liable if someone is injured or dies as a result of a defective vehicle. Strict liability means a manufacturer can be held liable without an injured party having to prove negligence or wrongdoing.

If, for example, someone is injured in a crash because a car had a defective braking system, the manufacturer can be held strictly liable. This is because manufacturers are obliged to produce safe vehicles and are therefore at fault when they don’t.

Manufacturers can be held strictly liable for manufacturing and design defects, even improper marketing (including advertising and instruction manuals).

If, however, the mechanical failure that caused the crash was caused by the owner’s improper maintenance or the fault of a negligent mechanic, they can be held liable.

If faulty repairs by a mechanic cause an accident, the mechanic may be to blame. The faulty repairs – or negligence – must have caused the mechanical failure that resulted in the crash.

Sometimes, fault, or liability, can be shared between two or more parties.

For example, say a manufacturer’s mechanical defect and a driver – who is speeding – both contribute to causing a crash. If the driver suffers injuries and claims compensation, this compensation would be reduced by a percentage, representing the extent to which the driver was to blame for the crash.

Also, if a manufacturer knows about a fault and issues a recall but a car owner fails to return the vehicle and an accident occurs, the manufacturer might not be held strictly liable.

Top types of mechanical failures leading to accidents

Mechanical failures can be caused by normal wear and tear, a manufacturer’s defect or inadequate vehicle maintenance and repairs.

A vehicle can experience mechanical failure in many ways, but certain types of failures are responsible for the most road accidents.

The top five mechanical failures that most commonly cause car crashes in South Africa are:

  • tyre issues
  • faulty brakes
  • steering defects
  • defective headlights and/or taillights
  • worn windscreen wipers.

Can you claim compensation for accidents due to mechanical failures?

Depending on the facts of a case, you can claim compensation. However, this will depend on which party was at fault.

Product liability claims for car mechanical failures

If you’re injured in an accident where a manufacturer is liable for the mechanical failure that caused the accident, you can make a product liability claim against the manufacturer.

To prove liability, your legal team would have to show that you were injured specifically because of the defect that caused mechanical failure.

Road Accident Fund claims

If you’re injured in a road accident caused fully or in part by another driver as a result of a mechanical failure that the owner was or should have been aware of and failed to maintain the vehicle properly, you can make a claim against the Road Accident Fund.

Also, if you were driving a vehicle owned by someone else and the accident was due to a mechanical problem, you’re entitled to lodge a claim with the RAF if the owner was or should have been aware of the issue and failed to maintain the vehicle properly.

Again, to prove liability, your legal team would have to show that you were injured specifically because of the defect that caused mechanical failure.

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Help with car accidents due to mechanical failures

If you or a family member have been injured in a road accident due to mechanical failure, it’s important to contact a suitably experienced attorney. At DSC Attorneys, we’re highly qualified in personal injury law and have extensive experience in handling road accident claims.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceeding, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.

We work on a no-win, no-fee basis. Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.

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