Florida’s Crashworthiness Doctrine
The crashworthiness doctrine, although often unknown to many, can certainly play a significant part in a car accident in Florida. The term crashworthiness refers to how a car’s design reacts to an accident. For example, windshield glass that is not shatterproof would perform poorly in a car accident because it would spray glass all over the passengers of a car in an accident. This and many other details become very important once a car is in an accident.
All of the details that are important and come into play during an accident should be managed out by a car’s manufacturer during the design process. Every care should be designed with the understanding that the car has the potential to be in a car accident some day. But history shows us that sometimes people disregard their duty, make mistakes, or just don’t think about some important details. That is where the crashworthiness doctrine comes into effect for car accident victims.
Crashworthiness Doctrine Enters U.S. Law
In 1968 an accident victim brought a lawsuit against a major car manufacturer alleging that a faulty design in the car caused him damages. This was a novel approach to car accident cases because a poorly designed car did not necessarily cause an accident to happen, but once it did, it caused additional injuries that should not happen.
In the the case of Larsen v. General Motors Corporation from 1968, the victim claimed that a badly designed steering wheel caused him harm after the accident occurred. The company was in complete disagreement, and in fact, took the position that it had no duty of care to ensure that the car is safe during a collision. But the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and based their decision on several factors:
- There is no reasonable basis to conclude that recovery for an injury should be limited to the person who caused the accident.
- A secondary injury based on a poorly designed vehicle is foreseeable and preventable by car manufacturers.
- Car manufacturers are not bound to create an injury-proof vehicle, but they must use reasonable care in their designs.
As other jurisdictions have adopted this doctrine, they rely on the original reasoning of the Larsen court.
Florida Implements Crashworthiness Doctrine
Florida was one of the early jurisdictions to follow suit in adopting the Larsen decision. In 1976, the Florida Supreme Court adopted the reasoning of the Larsen court in Ford Motor Co. v. Evancho. In that opinion, the Court announced that car manufacturers would be held liable under certain circumstances for negligently designed automobiles. The court basically adopted the same reasoning that the Larsen court put forward nearly 10 years earlier. And since then, Florida courts have continued to develop the doctrine until today. As it stands, car manufacturers have a duty to use reasonable care when they design cars so they do not cause additional risk to drivers once in an accident.
What to Do if Involved in an Accident
As you can see, there is more to a typical accident than just the two or more cars involved. That is why it is so important to work with attorneys with a practice dedicated to accident and injury law. At Alan Goldfarb, P.A., we are prepared to assist you with your case to ensure you receive the compensation you are due. Contact us today for help in Miami.