More than 100 vehicle owners complained of dangerous and sudden unintended acceleration allegedly due to a defective autopilot feature. Their concerns prompted an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency that determines vehicle recalls.

Sudden unintended acceleration occurs when a car’s gas pedal unexpectedly causes the vehicle to accelerate. It typically occurs when a driver intended to apply the car’s brakes instead. A failure to stop or reduce speed because of poor manufacturing or defective design may, however, entitle an injured party to file a legal action.

How an investigation can lead to a legal action

A probe of about 500,000 electric vehicles manufactured by a popular technology company could reveal whether a safety defect in the autopilot system caused more than 100 crashes. As noted by Consumer Reports, drivers experienced sudden accelerations that resulted in more than 50 serious injuries.

When the NHTSA recalls a vehicle, its manufacturer becomes aware of a defect or malfunction. It then owes a duty of care to correct the defect and warn owners. The manufacturer must act to prevent further injuries even if it requires replacing owners’ vehicles. Individuals or families harmed may also seek remedies for bodily injury, vehicle damage or wrongful death.

How to show that a defect caused an injury

Vehicle manufacturers can face strict liability for injuries and deaths caused by a defective product. When the defect has not been subject to a recall, a plaintiff may rely upon complaints from other vehicle owners experiencing the same flaw.

As reported by the FairWarning organization, a vehicle manufacturer settled more than 500 claims from consumers asserting that sudden acceleration caused serious bodily injury or deaths. Based on these prior legal actions, other injured or surviving family members may have grounds to file similar legal actions.