Can Lack of Maintenance of Your Vehicle Be Negligence That Leads to an Accident?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Maintenance negligence of your vehicle can have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the condition of your car. From loss of control to increased chances of collisions, neglecting car maintenance can lead to devastating accidents that may cause serious injuries or fatalities.
In 2018, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported 212,500 vehicle fires, with 560 deaths, 1,500 injuries, and $1.9 billion in property damage. The NFPA report named mechanical and electrical malfunctions or failures as the leading cause of vehicle fires, highlighting the importance of regular vehicle maintenance.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., our experienced attorneys understand the impact of maintenance negligence on accident cases. If you were injured in a car accident due to someone else’s poor vehicle maintenance, we can help you hold the negligent party accountable for their actions and seek the compensation you deserve.
Is Car Maintenance Neglect Illegal?
While car maintenance neglect is not illegal in Michigan, it can still have legal repercussions if it results in an accident. Negligent maintenance, which refers to inadequate upkeep of your vehicle, poses risks to others on the road and can be considered a form of negligence, providing grounds for legal action.
If a vehicle owner fails to maintain their vehicle and it leads to an accident, they may be responsible for damages, such as property damage and medical expenses. Negligent maintenance can contribute to determining liability, even if another party bears primary responsibility for the accident.
For example, Michigan statute 257.705 requires all motor vehicles to have brakes that adequately control the car’s movement. The brakes must be operable on at least two wheels of the vehicle. If drivers fail to ensure their brakes work correctly on at least two wheels, they can be liable for the accident.
Common Forms of Vehicle Maintenance Neglect
Negligent maintenance of a vehicle can take various forms, such as ignoring warning lights, not replacing bald tires, or failing to change the oil in the car. The following are examples of car maintenance negligence that can lead to accidents on the road:
Ignoring Warning Lights
Warning lights on the dashboard indicate potential issues with vehicle components, such as the engine, brakes, or airbags. Failing to address the issue indicated by the warning light in a vehicle is a form of negligence that can have serious consequences.
For example, a driver neglects the headlight warning light and does not replace the bulb. Driving at night without a headlight can compromise visibility for the driver and other vehicles, increasing the risk of an accident.
Failing to Inspect and Replace Tires
Worn-out tires with insufficient tread depth can compromise traction and increase braking distances. This makes it more difficult to control the vehicle, especially in poor weather like rain, ice, or snow. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire-related crashes accounted for 622 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2021.
To ensure optimal safety on the road, vehicle owners should conduct regular tire inspections, maintain proper tire pressure, and replace tires when they reach the recommended tread depth, typically 2/32”.
Neglecting Regular Oil Changes
Regular oil changes are vital for proper engine function and longevity. Failing to change the oil at recommended intervals can lead to engine damage, decreased performance, and potentially catastrophic failures while driving. Lack of lubrication can cause excessive friction, overheating, and ultimately, engine breakdown, risking accidents and costly repairs.
To maintain engine health and prevent potential accidents, vehicle owners should follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals and ensure the use of oil with the appropriate viscosity and quality. Typically, this means getting an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but check your car manual for your recommended oil change schedule.
Overlooking Brake System Maintenance
Inadequate brake system maintenance, including brake pad replacements, rotor inspections, and fluid checks, can compromise the vehicle’s braking performance. Worn brake pads or contaminated brake fluid can lead to reduced stopping power, longer stopping distances, and potential brake failures.
According to the NHTSA, inadequate braking systems contribute to approximately 22% of all vehicle crashes caused by mechanical failure. This negligence increases the risk of accidents, particularly in emergencies where reliable brakes are crucial.
To ensure optimal braking performance and overall safety on the road, vehicle owners should perform regular brake system inspections, replace worn brake pads, and maintain brake fluid levels.
Disregarding Fluid Levels and Changes
Proper maintenance of essential vehicle fluids, such as coolant, transmission, and power steering, is crucial for optimal vehicle performance and accident prevention. Inadequate coolant levels can cause overheating and engine damage, while neglected transmission fluid can cause gear slippage and transmission failures.
Disregarding power steering fluid can lead to difficulty in steering, affecting maneuverability and potentially causing accidents. Vehicle owners should regularly check and maintain appropriate fluid levels, follow manufacturer guidelines for fluid changes, and promptly address any fluid-related issues.
Filing a Claim Against a Negligent Vehicle Owner
If you’re injured in an accident caused by negligent vehicle maintenance, you can seek damages with the help of a skilled auto accident attorney from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. We can help you understand your right to compensation and file a claim seeking a fair settlement.
Under Michigan’s no-fault approach to car accident claims, you must have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to help you pay for medical bills after a crash. No matter who is responsible for the collision, we can help you file for your PIP benefits, including coverage for medical expenses and up to 85% of lost wages due to your injuries.
If your damages exceed your PIP coverage, we can help you file a third-party claim against the negligent party. This action will allow you to pursue compensation for additional costs related to your injuries and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
We can also help you navigate Michigan’s modified comparative fault law if the other party claims that your negligent vehicle maintenance led to the accident. This law bars you from recovering compensation if you are found to have more than 51% responsible for your injuries. We can gather evidence to show that you maintained your vehicle and that your actions did not contribute to the collision.
How an Attorney Can Prove Car Maintenance Negligence in an Accident Claim
If you are involved in a car accident, proving the other driver’s maintenance negligence is crucial for establishing liability and obtaining the compensation you deserve. Our experienced car accident attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., can help you build a solid case to seek restitution from the negligent party with the following actions:
Documenting Maintenance History
Our accident attorneys will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the maintenance history of the other driver’s vehicle. We will examine service records, maintenance logs, and receipts to identify any lapses or negligent actions. This documentation will provide valuable evidence to support your claim.
Expert Testimony in Vehicle Maintenance
Engaging expert witnesses specializing in vehicle maintenance can strengthen the case. These experts can provide professional opinions on whether the accident resulted from inadequate maintenance or neglect. Their expertise and knowledge can help establish a clear connection between negligence and the accident.
Using accident reconstruction techniques can recreate the events leading up to the accident. This process involves analyzing physical evidence, vehicle damage, and witness testimonies to determine if poor vehicle maintenance played a role.
Reviewing Medical Records
Your legal team will review your medical records to estimate a fair settlement and support your claim. Our senior partner, Eileen Kroll, will use her background in the medical field as a registered nurse to ensure that all costs related to your injuries are included in your settlement amount so you can seek adequate compensation to pay for all accident-related expenses.
Gathering Eyewitness Accounts
Eyewitness testimony can also help to prove car maintenance negligence. Attorneys can interview witnesses who observed the vehicle’s condition before the accident or noticed any signs of mechanical failure. Their accounts can provide valuable insights and support the claim of negligence.
Analyzing Black Box Data
Modern vehicles have event data recorders called “black boxes.” These devices capture crucial data, including vehicle speed, brake usage, and engine performance. The data can be retrieved and analyzed to determine if maintenance negligence led to the accident.
Seek Legal Support for Maintenance Negligence Cases
When facing the consequences of car maintenance negligence, it’s crucial to have strong legal support by your side. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we understand the complexities of these cases and can fight for the compensation you deserve. We will diligently investigate the accident, gather evidence, and build a solid legal strategy to help you recover from the damages caused by maintenance negligence.
Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at 1-866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.