Customizing cars is a hobby almost as old as the automobile itself. The popularity of cable TV shows about custom shops, the availability of consumer aftermarket components, and the deep roots of American car culture combine to make custom cars an increasingly common sight on the road. Although customization is fun, its fans should take a moment to think about how it can affect their legal liability. There are a number of considerations worth bearing in mind.
Know your insurer’s position on modifications.
If a custom modification causes an accident an insurer may not be willing to cover the resulting damages unless the insurance policy specifically allows for the custom work. Insurers like to know the details about the vehicles they insure. The vehicle identification number (VIN) provided to the insurer tells it much more than just the make and model of the car: it helps the insurer know exactly what the vehicle is equipped with and how much the vehicle is worth. A customization may alter the vehicle’s value but can also alter its performance. For example, installing an engine enhancer that increases horsepower could make the car more dangerous to drive. An insurer needs to know the kind of risk it is taking on so it can appropriately price its policies.
Installing aftermarket parts may complicate products liability protections.
When a consumer is injured as a consequence of design or manufacturing defects in a product the consumer can have the option to sue the manufacturer under a products liability theory. Changes to the stock configuration of the vehicle can free the manufacturer from responsibility. Instead, the manufacturer or installer of the custom part might be responsible. But determining who is at fault in such cases can be tricky, especially if the nature of the problem that caused the accident is difficult to determine.
Direct responsibility for unsafe modifications.
A hobbyist who does his or her own customization work often assumes the risk that some part of the work wasn’t completed correctly. Making changes to a car in a way that renders the car unsafe could expose the hobbyist to liability for any resulting injuries. Absent insurance that specifically covers it, the hobbyist could be left bearing all of the cost of the ensuing litigation and compensation to injured parties.
Ask an accident attorney about injuries from custom cars
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients injured in auto accidents in the Las Vegas area recover compensation. If you have questions about an accident involving a customized car, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site