I got my brakes changed at a questionable repair shop. A month later, the brakes failed and I got in an accident. Who can I sue?

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Question:  I got the front brakes changed on my car, but then a month later, my brakes failed on the highway and I was in an accident.  I got injured, and so did someone else.  Can I recover anything from the mechanic or the car company?

Response:  Total brake failures are very rare, but can have different causes.  At first glance, it may be difficult to determine the cause of your accident.  Brake failures can be caused by adding the wrong fluids, overheating, mechanical errors, manufacturing defects, or several other factors.  Your situation will require research before anyone can say whether you have a cause of action.

In order to successfully recover from the mechanic, you would have to show that the mechanic negligently repaired your car—i.e. that he breached his duty to you (such as by not seeing a problem, or inadequately performing the repair), and the breach of duty caused the damage.  If the mechanic could not have found the problem, or the problem developed after the car left the mechanic’s shop, the mechanic may not be liable for the brake failure.

If you sue the car company for a defect in the car, you would have to prove that the damage resulted from a defect in the design of the car or the manufacturing process, or that there were inadequate warnings.  This becomes an expensive endeavor, because your attorney will have to hire experts to analyze the design and/or the process to look for errors and identify the source of the problems.  Once evidence is uncovered to indicate that the company made an error, you would have to show that the company should be held liable under either negligence or strict liability.

You should contact a product liability attorney as soon as possible to determine the cause of the brake failure and whether you have a cause of action against the mechanic or the car company.  You may or may not have to pay for the tests required to determine the cause, so talk to your individual attorney about how the costs will be divided.

Answered by Kristen Lawfer

Additional Resources: Defendants in Defective Car Suits

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