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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Carmakers Can Be Liable for Not Installing Safety Equipment

March 11, 2011

The Supreme Court has reversed its earlier position and ruled that carmakers can be sued for failing to equip vehicles with the most effective safely equipment. The unanimous decision has every sign of clearing the way for lawsuits like that filed by a California man, whose wife, Than Williamson, was killed in a head-on collision on a Utah Highway.

Her husband, Delbert Williamson, filed a lawsuit against Mazda, alleging that his wife’s life might have been spared had their 1992 minivan been better equipped with more than just a lap belt. California judges had previously thrown out his lawsuit, citing a prior Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that shielded automakers from being sued for failing to immediately install air bags in all their vehicles.

Moving forward, lawsuits filed by injured motorists may play an increasingly important role in forcing auto manufacturers to go the extra mile in seeking the highest standards of safety for equipment installed on their vehicles. In this case, the high court embraced the view that lawsuits filed by injured motorists can lead to higher vehicle safety standards, motivating automakers to equip vehicles with the best safety equipment possible. The Supreme Court also seemed to backtrack from the position that federal motor-vehicle safety law blocks the majority of safety related lawsuits against carmakers. The Supreme Court decision indicated that these standards provide only a minimum standard not a standard that is sufficient to protect an automaker from liability. The court also reasoned that lawsuits by injured motorists are not precluded simply because the federal government regulates safety standards for the industry.

Every 12 minutes there is an auto accident in the U.S., which often leads to permanent injuries, such as permanent impairment of brain function and long-term physical disabilities. Over two million people each year will join the ranks of those with permanent auto accident related impairments. About 5 million people are currently living with the traumatic after-effects of brain injury and well over a quarter of a million people must learn to cope with spinal cord injuries for the rest of their life. The emotional, financial and physical effects that auto accident survivors face can be overwhelming. These accident victims often face a lifetime of medical treatment along with long-term rehabilitative care. This new court decision offers hope that many avoidable life-changing injuries may be prevented in the future.

For people involved in a vehicle crash, brain and spinal cord injuries are by far the most debilitating type of injuries often necessitating a lifetime of medical care and rehabilitative therapy and placing families in a state of financial turmoil. Better safety equipment can substantially reduce this type of catastrophic injury. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing people suffering catastrophic injuries resulting from Georgia car accidents for over 39 years. Our experienced Georgia auto accident attorneys will work in your best interest to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve.

Montlick and Associates is available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.