Texans are driving less during the COVID-19 shutdown, but this is no time to ignore car maintenance. There are issues that can arise if a car sits too long without being driven, problems that could lead to car accidents. You should act promptly instead of putting off car repairs because the worldwide pandemic could disrupt supply chains and make it harder to obtain car parts down the road.
Not maintaining critical automotive parts like tires and brakes can cause accidents if they fail while you are driving. Besides the property damage and personal injuries suffered in a car accident, the need for emergency services and/or hospitalization potentially exposes the accident victim to COVID-19 while increasing the burden on medical professionals and medical centers.
The Dallas car accident lawyers at Kraft & Associates, P.C. urge you to make sure your vehicles are maintained as you stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Car Maintenance ‘Essential’ During COVID-19 Pandemic
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, lists “automotive repair, maintenance, and transportation equipment manufacturing and distribution facilities among the essential services that should be exempted from pandemic-related stay-at-home orders issued by states and local governments.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has incorporated everything listed as essential services by the federal government into his executive order requiring all Texans to stay at home except when providing essential services or doing essential things such as shopping for groceries.
An April 9 Spectrum News report for Texas says you should be able to get most auto repairs taken care of and that routine maintenance, such as an oil change, is largely available. “Many auto repair locations are advertising available services while stating social distancing policies are in effect,” the report says.
Some auto repair shops may be operating with reduced staff and repairs may take longer than normal.
Car Maintenance Necessary to Reduce Accident Potential
Edmunds, the automotive information services site, discusses some common trouble spots for cars that are not driven regularly due to the COVID-19 shutdown. “Leaving cars parked for long periods of time can have unforeseen consequences that can impact both the reliability and potentially safety of the vehicles,” Edmunds says.
The areas of concern include:
- Tires. When a car sits idle for a long time, the weight of the vehicle flattens out a portion of the rubber on the tires. “Flat-spotting” weakens the tire, which can lead to a flat or a blowout if the tire fails while the car is in motion. A month of sitting stationary could cause problems.
- Brakes. Brake rotors can begin to develop rust when unused, Edmunds says. If a vehicle’s parking brake is engaged for a long period of time, the brake pads can bind to the rotors.
- Battery. A car’s battery will lose its charge if it sits idle too long. You can disconnect the battery to stop this from happening or use a plug-in battery tender to maintain the charge.
- Fluids. The fluids needed to run and lubricate a motor vehicle can break down if the car sits idle too long. Gaskets and hoses can dry out and crack. Power steering is among several systems requiring fluids to function properly.
As Edmunds points out, the simple solution is to drive your car now and then if it has been sitting unused during the coronavirus shutdown. Their expert recommends at least 20 minutes once every two weeks.
If you take your car to a repair shop or service station for servicing, Edmunds suggests that afterward you use common disinfectants to clean the vehicle’s interior surfaces of potential COVID-19 infection.
Liability for Car Accidents Due To Failed Vehicle Maintenance
A national survey of the causes of motor vehicle crashes found that vehicle failure was identified in tens of thousands of car accidents.
Among approximately 44,000 car accidents in which vehicle failure was identified as a critical reason for the crash:
- Tire problems accounted for about 35 percent
- Brake-related problems accounted for about 22 percent
- Steering/suspension/transmission/engine-related problems were cited in 3 percent
- Other vehicle-related problems were identified in about 40 percent.
A critical reason is the immediate reason for a critical pre-crash event and is often the last failure in the chain of events leading up to the crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. In other words, there may be multiple reasons a crash happened, and a neglected maintenance issue could be one of them.
If the owner of a vehicle knew or should have known about maintenance issues that made his or her car unsafe but didn’t have the vehicle repaired, the owner could be held liable for any accident caused by the mechanical failure.
Most car accidents are caused by driver error. But in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, for example, if a maintenance failure in the second driver’s car also contributed to the crash, it could be costly to the second driver.
This is because Texas law abides by a standard of “comparative fault” or “proportionate responsibility,” which reduces payments to drivers who bear any responsibility for injuries they suffer in a car accident.
If a jury determined that you could have stopped and avoided the accident if your brakes hadn’t failed, it would reduce damages you receive for your losses accordingly. If the jury decided you were 51 percent responsible for the accident or more, you would receive no damages.
How Our Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Despite the coronavirus shutdown and social distancing to avoid COVID-19, our duty of safety to each other still applies when we operate motor vehicles on Texas roads and highways. It is important that we continue to maintain our vehicles, whether they sit idle or we still regularly drive to essential jobs and to fulfill other necessary activities.
At Kraft & Associates in Dallas, TX, our car accident attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients hold those who neglect their duty of safety to others accountable when they cause accidents resulting in serious harm. If you have been in a car accident that someone else caused, contact the legal team at Kraft & Associates.