Frank Sofocleous, Attorney at Law
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Frank Sofocleous, Attorney at Law


Manufacturing Defects in Automotive Products Liability Cases

The essential things that have to be proved by a plaintiff in a products liability action against the manufacturer or seller of a car or truck are that the vehicle contained a defect that created an unreasonable risk of danger when the vehicle was used for its intended purpose and that the alleged defect caused the occurrence of a collision or similar incident, for example a vehicle fire, that resulted in the death, personal injury, or property damage for which the plaintiff seeks to recover damages. Such alleged defects in a vehicle may include shortcomings in its design, errors in the manufacturing of its numerous parts and their assembly into a complete car or truck, or failure to properly warn the purchaser or user of some danger inherent in the operation and use of the vehicle.

Tort Liability for Highway Maintenance

The massive collapse of an interstate highway bridge in Minnesota in 2007 has served as a stark reminder of the problems created by the aging infrastructure in the United States. Numerous less dramatic examples of the consequences of failure to properly maintain and repair highways and associated structures such as bridges and tunnels have led to the bringing of legal actions claiming damages for deaths, personal injuries, or property damage caused by such occurrences. Such actions can involve both governmental units and contractors who perform highway repair and maintenance work on behalf of those governmental units.

Business Use Exclusion in Motorist Insurance

Some motorist insurance policies exclude coverage for injuries and damages if they occur while a vehicle is being used for a business purpose. For example, if a driver is using his or her personal van to make deliveries for the driver's home-based business and causes a collision with another vehicle, the driver's insurance company would refuse to pay for the damage caused to the other vehicle and for any injuries to those riding in it. In effect, the exclusion causes a vehicle to drive in and out of insurance coverage depending on its driver's particular mission.

Tort Liability of Owners/Operators of Private Motor Vehicles

While the owners and operators of private motor vehicles sometimes think of their possession of auto insurance as totally eliminating any potential tort liability on their parts, such owners and operators remain subject to the tort system to the extent that their insurance coverage does not encompass part or all of their legal liability for an incident that has caused personal injury or property damage to another person. Such a situation can arise, for example, where a court judgment reflecting injury or damage caused by an insured private vehicle owner or operator exceeds the limits of his or her policy, or where the insured's failure to provide required notice to an insurer or cooperate in the defense of a legal action causes the insurer to assert that it is not required to provide coverage for the loss under the policy.

Assigned Risk Coverage

State assigned risk plans basically operate by creating a pool made up of those drivers who would otherwise not be able to obtain necessary insurance coverage and apportioning the responsibility for providing coverage on the members of that pool among the insurers who write motor vehicle policies in the state. As a consequence of the unique and higher-risk nature of the assigned risk business, state laws covering assigned risk plans often contain detailed provisions concerning application for, participation in, and termination of assigned risk coverage.

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