From time to time we see cases where a car accident happened because of a mechanical fault in the vehicle. For example we have seen cases where a bus failed to stop at a stop street and the bus driver said that the brakes had failed. If you are involved in a car accident, is somebody responsible for the accident? If so, is it the driver of the vehicle or is it the owner of the vehicle?
As a general rule a driver’s duty of care includes not only the actual driving but also the mechanical condition of the vehicle. In an old case of Wanless v Piening, the steering in the car failed and there was an accident and the driver was sued. Jacobs J said, at p 339:
“The driver of a motor vehicle owes a duty to all his passengers, gratuitous or otherwise, as he does to all users of the highway, not to drive them in his vehicle without having exercised reasonable care to see that it is in a mechanically safe condition to be driven. He does not warrant that it is safe but he must exercise reasonable care to see that it is safe to be driven.”
This decision was overturned by the High Court on appeal on other grounds but the general duty remains that the driver must exercise reasonable care to make sure that the car or bus or truck is mechanically safe to be on the road. If the driver should have known that something was wrong with the car and didn’t do anything about it, and continued to drive, then you may have a case against the driver.
As to the owner, in the case of Meth v Moore & Anor the claimant was a passenger in a car when the driver suddenly lost control, the car left the road, rolled, and the claimant was killed. The accident was caused by a mechanical fault – the drive shaft became detached. A claim was made against the owner on the basis that he should have maintained the vehicle and failed to do so. The evidence was that the owner had only recently purchased the car, the car was old, and he had purchased it in a private sale. Unbeknown to the owner the drive shaft was worn and not lubricated but had the shaft been inspected the problem would have been picked up. Initially the claim was dismissed on the basis that the owner does not owe a duty of care to a passenger. On appeal the Court held that the owner of a motor vehicle does owe a duty of care to passengers. The duty is to take reasonable steps to ensure that the motor vehicle is in a safe condition to be driven, and that that duty is owed to all passengers.
If then you are in an accident which was caused by a mechanical failure of the vehicle, you may have a claim against the owner. You will of course need to show that the owner breached the duty of care, in other words, there were circumstances where the owner should have considered that there was a problem with the condition of the vehicle.
No matter what, if you are wondering if you can claim for the accident you were in, you should give us a call and have a no-obligations free chat about your claim.