Autos with Defective Wiring

Although modern automobiles are marvels of electrical engineering, their complexity creates plentiful opportunities for electrical systems to fail, with occasionally disastrous results. When defective wiring in an automobile is caused by an inherent defect in the automobile itself (rather than inadequate maintenance or DIY repairs, for example), an injured party might be eligible to assert a product liability claim seeking compensation for any harm that results.

Early Warning Signs

Sometimes major electrical failures are foreshadowed by apparently trivial warning signs. If this happens, an alert driver can prevent an accident from ever happening in the first place. The following warning signs are among the most common:

  • Flickering lighting on the dashboard or elsewhere inside or outside the vehicle
  • Sudden unexplained losses of power,
  • Malfunctioning power windows or doors
  • Smoke in the car or an odor of burning plastic

Since the symptoms of an electrical wiring defect can mimic the symptoms of other defects, it is prudent to rule out other possible causes before you simply assume an electrical wiring defect. Flickering lighting, for example, might indicate nothing more than a defective light bulb.


Defective wiring in an automobile can result in personal injury in a variety of ways, including:

  • Causing a collision due to sudden loss of engine power or loss of external lighting on a dark road. If an accident occurs, malfunctioning door and window controls can make it difficult to exit the vehicle after the accident
  • Exposed wiring can cause electrical shocks.
  • A fire can cause a fuel tank explosion or suffocate passengers.

Product Liability Law

Under state product liability law, you can sue the manufacturer or distributor of an automobile or automobile part if you suffered harm due to a design or manufacturing defect. As long as you can establish that the defect rendered the product “unreasonably dangerous”, you don’t even have to prove any wrongdoing on the part of the defendant – the defendant is strictly liable for any harm that results. To file a product liability lawsuit over defective wiring in an automobile, you will need to decide who to sue – the manufacturer or distributor of the automobile itself, or a parts supplier.

In addition to product liability, you might also be eligible to sue under one of the following legal theories:

  • Negligence
  • Breach of express warranty
  • Breach of implied warranty
  • Breach of contract

Although you are entitled to only one recovery, you can rely on more than one legal theory in the same lawsuit.

The Effect of a Product Recall

In some cases an automobile or one if its electrical components will be recalled by the manufacturer.

How does the existence of a product recall affect a manufacturer’s liability in a product liability case? Intuitively, the problem might seem paradoxical. On one hand, recalling a product seems to constitute an admission by the manufacturer that a defect existed in the product in the first place. If the defect caused the harm to the plaintiff, the plaintiff might use the existence of the defect as powerful evidence against the manufacturer. On the other hand, if the plaintiff ignored the recall, couldn’t the manufacturer argue that the plaintiff assumed the risk of harm?

The answer is not so clear-cut. While a plaintiff can use a product recall to prove the existence of a defect, the fact that the plaintiff ignored the recall is not an absolute defense against liability. To win, the manufacturer must also show that notice of the recall actually reached the plaintiff and that the recall warnings were adequate.