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San Diego Auto Defect Attorney

Extensive Experience Handling Auto Defect Cases

The McClellan Law Firm enjoys a national reputation for excellence in client service in complex personal injury and wrongful death litigation of all kinds, but the greatest source of our success has been our work in automotive product liability.

We have sued most of the car manufacturers in the world for serious claims ranging from defective seat belts to poor crashworthiness in a collision or rollover.

Attorney Craig McClellan has been recognized numerous times for his success in complex product liability cases, including being named San Diego Best Lawyers Product Liability Litigation Lawyer of the Year (2012, 2014 & 2019).

We at The McClellan Law Firm represent clients throughout Southern California in product liability litigation against auto manufacturers in cases where a serious or fatal motor vehicle accident was caused by a dangerous defect in design or construction.

We also handle cases where the defective component or system was not the direct cause of the accident but resulted in injuries or death that would not have occurred otherwise.

Examples of the kinds of cases our attorneys accept include:

  • Seat belt failure, airbag failure, or both
  • Lack of an electronic stability control (ESC) system
  • SUV rollovers caused by the vehicle's inherent instability
  • Defects in exotic autos, race cars, or high-performance models
  • Roof crush injuries caused by inadequate structural support
  • Car fires caused or worsened by a defective fuel line or gas tank design
  • Head, face and eye injuries caused by defective auto windshield or window glass
  • Sudden acceleration, in which the vehicle speeds or lurches forward
  • Tire defects such as tread separation, belt edge detachment, or tire bead explosion
  • Transmission defects, in which a car in park or neutral suddenly slips into a forward gear

Our familiarity with automotive defect claims gives our clients a substantial if obvious advantage: Instead of assuming that the other driver's insurance limits (together with your own underinsured motorist coverage) represent the upper limit of what we can recover for you, we regard that figure as a point of departure.

What is an Auto Defect?

An auto defect refers to any flaw, malfunction, or issue present in a vehicle that deviates from its intended design or performance standards. These defects can arise during the manufacturing process, assembly, or even design stages of vehicle production. They can affect various components of a vehicle, including its engine, transmission, brakes, steering system, electrical system, airbags, and more.

Crashworthiness & Auto Defects

Crashworthiness refers to those properties of a car that protect its passengers in the event of a collision. Auto manufacturers need to design vehicles that offer a reasonable degree of protection in foreseeable types of collisions. Too often, manufacturers sacrifice crashworthiness to other vehicle design and performance features, and to profit.

In auto defect cases involving crashworthiness issues, we work closely with experts to analyze the results of test data. This helps to indicate the vehicle's safety performance under different accident scenarios and the conscious choices made by the manufacturer to address or ignore deficiencies.

Drivers and passengers have a right to protection from auto accident injuries that are caused or aggravated by such vehicle crashworthiness defects as:

  • Inadequate structural strength resulting in roof crush injuries
  • Failure of seat belts or air bag systems
  • Unreasonable risk of injury from broken windshield or window glass
  • Insufficient "crumple zone" performance in head-on or rear-end collisions
  • Unreasonable risk of ejection due to door latch failure
  • Fires or explosions caused by defective fuel line or gas tank design
  • Unreasonable risk of being driven into the steering wheel or dashboard
  • Inadequate interior padding to protect against fractures or injuries to internal organs

We work effectively with design experts, engineers, and automotive safety professionals to develop and present your crashworthiness claims as thoroughly as possible. With more than $250 million in damages recovered for our clients to date, our record of success in auto defect litigation speaks for itself. Contact The McClellan Law Firm today.

Recovering Compensation from an Auto Defect Claim

California follows a strict liability standard for product liability claims. This means that plaintiffs don't need to prove negligence on the part of the manufacturer or seller to recover damages. Instead, they must demonstrate that the product was defective and that the defect caused their injuries or damages.

Injured parties must demonstrate several elements to succeed in their claim:

  1. Existence of a Defect: The plaintiff must show that the auto part in question was defective. This defect can manifest in various forms, including design defects, manufacturing defects, or failures to warn about potential dangers associated with the product.
  2. Unreasonably Dangerous: The defect must render the auto part unreasonably dangerous to consumers when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. This means that the defect poses a risk of harm beyond what an ordinary consumer would expect.
  3. Causation: The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the defect in the auto part and their injuries or damages. They must demonstrate that the defect directly caused or substantially contributed to the harm suffered.
  4. Reasonable Use: The plaintiff must show that they were using the auto part in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer or seller. If the plaintiff was misusing the product in a way that was not intended or foreseeable, this may impact the success of their claim.
  5. No Substantial Changes: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the auto part was not substantially altered or modified from its original condition in a way that contributed to the defect or the resulting harm.
  6. Foreseeable Use by Plaintiff: The plaintiff must establish that they were a foreseeable user of the product. This means that they were within the class of persons that the manufacturer or seller intended or should have reasonably foreseen would use the auto part.

In addition to strict liability, plaintiffs may also pursue claims based on breach of warranty. Auto parts typically come with implied and/or express warranties, and if a defect breaches these warranties and causes harm, the injured party may seek compensation.

Multiple parties involved in the distribution chain, including manufacturers, distributors, and sellers, may be held jointly and severally liable for damages caused by a defective auto part. This means that each party can be held individually responsible for the full amount of damages, regardless of their percentage of fault.

Our Approach to Defective Motor Vehicle Claims

If we take on your case, we will carefully analyze the circumstances of your accident to see whether it would have been less severe if the safety systems of every vehicle involved had performed properly.

In cases where our experience and work with forensic consultants indicate a strong likelihood of liability on the part of a manufacturer, we stand an excellent chance of achieving a settlement or jury verdict for the full amount of your damages, without regard for the limits of any driver's insurance coverage. Automotive defect claims represent the largest single category of the $250 million that we have recovered over the years.

For additional information about our ability to represent your interests in a defective auto components case, contact our office for a free consultation with a San Diego auto defect attorney.

  • Endorced by the Inner Circle of Advocates

    Craig McClellan is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only group of the top 100 plaintiff trial lawyers in the United States.

  • Best Lawyers in America 2020

    Craig McClellan has been selected to the list of The Best Lawyers in America every year since 1993.

  • The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Personal Injury in the 2023 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawers "Best Law Firms" - Personal Injury Litigation Plaintifs Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Personal Injury in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" - Commercial Litigation Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Commercial Litigation in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" - Product Liability Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Product Liability in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Craig McClellan earned one of the top 10 medical malpractice settlements in California, securing a $9,000,000 settlement for a client.

  • Top 10 Settlements

    Craig McClellan & Conor Hulburt earned one of the top 10 premises liability settlements in California, securing a $3,175,850 settlement for a client.

  • Craig McClellan selected to Super Lawyers list, Top 10 San Diego Attorneys

    Craig McClellan has been selected to the list of Super Lawyers every year since 2007, and earned the most votes of ANY lawyer for 2019 in San Diego.

  • Craig McClellan was voted Lawyer of the Year for Product Liability Litigation by Best Lawyers for 2019.

  • 2020 AV Preeminent Peer Rated

    Attorney McClellan earned a Distinguished rating from Martindale-Hubbell for his achievements.

  • America's Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys

    Craig McClellan is listed as one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators in Business Litigation, Personal Injury, and Product Liability.

  • Craig McClellan is rated 10.0 on Avvo - Top rated Personal Injury Lawyer

    Attorney McClellan has a 10/10 “Superb” rating, the highest rating an attorney can receive from Avvo.

  • BBB Accredited Business

    The firm has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, the highest possible rating offered by the organization.

  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego

    Attorney McClellan is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, and previously served on its Board of Directors.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan was named as one of the “Best Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Times.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named as one of the “Best Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Times.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan named “Best Lawyers” by San Diego Metro.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named one of the “Best Lawyers” by San Diego Metro.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan named Top Lawyers in San Diego in Business Litigation by San Diego Magazine.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named one of the Top Lawyers in San Diego in Business Litigation by San Diego Magazine.

  • Craig McClellan has been named among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers, which honors the nation’s top advocates.

Trusted Recommendations

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  • We wouldn’t be here, in this moment of life without the kindness and professionalism of you all and how you went to bat for us! Eternally grateful! A.K.

  • Immediately after our interview we knew without question that no matter how steep the mountain, win or lose, we had found the right person—Craig McClellan, Esq.—[…] We felt a profound sense of ... G.P.

  • We will NEVER forget what you did for us Craig. We are FOREVER GRATEFUL. K.V.

  • I just wanted to thank you for your efforts on [Pam’s] behalf, your skills, and your heart. You are not just a lawyer in what you do, you are a master of your profession. And I hope you are passing ... Juror

  • I thank you for your kindness and generosity in giving selflessly without reserve. Additionally, please extend my thanks to your staff for their diligent work and encouragement throughout the trial. A.D.

  • We do not quite know how to verbalize or show how grateful we are to have had the distinct honor to have you represent us at truly the most critical time in our lives. S.C.

  • Having had the high privilege of presiding over a number of cases involving national counsel, I want you to know you’re one of the very best [...]. You and those with you were outstanding ambassadors ...

  • It was a real honor to preside over a case with you as counsel. In my mind you represent all that is good in our profession. Judge J.

  • Your appearance on the nation-wide broadcast of ‘60 Minutes’ was a public service in which all San Diego has reason to take great pride. To integrity—you have added public service and again elevated ... Juror

  • We could not be happier with the McCllelan Law Firm team! My husband and I were referred to Craig McCllelan by one of his peers. We had a very sensitive medical malpractice case that we were hesitant ... S.P.

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