Potential Kia Defect

About a week ago, something was brought to my attention which might be the basis for somebody’s lawsuit in the future. My son’s girlfriend was involved in a two vehicle accident, luckily no one was hurt.  My son’s girlfriend was driving a 2015 Kia Soul when the right front corner of her car was hit by another driver trying to run a red light.  The Kia sustained damage to the right front fender, bumper, and headlights.  As accident’s go, this one seemed to have been relatively minor.  However, after her insurance adjuster inspected the car, she decided to total the car.  The adjuster found that a wire that controlled the deployment of the side airbags had been severed during the crash.  As a result, the airbag circuit could be repaired by splicing the wire which wasn’t surprising.  What was surprising was that instead of replacing the wiring harness that controlled the air bags, the entire car had to be rewired!  This meant that the entire body had to be removed and the frame exposed in order to do the work.  This of course, meant that the amount of labor plus the wiring amounted to more than the car was worth, which is why it was totaled.  Now, the potential defect lies in the fact the if the wiring can be severed in a low speed (less than 30 mph) accident causing the side airbags not to deploy, then the protection of the wiring is inadequate.  If the wiring can be severed causing the side airbags to fail, then the defect defeats the purpose of having airbags in the first place.  Has anyone else had this problem?

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How do you tell if your transmission was damaged in an accident?

Earlier this year, we were asked to examine a vehicle that was involved in a two vehicle accident and make a determination of the condition of the transmission pre-impact. The vehicle that was involved was a 2008 Buick Enclave that had already been repaired by the owner’s insurance carrier. The issue of the condition of the transmission arose after the vehicle had been returned to the owner and the owner subsequently drove the vehicle an additional 3100 miles. The transmission became noisy and then failed to move the vehicle after being placed in “Drive”. While investigating this incident, it was learned that the vehicle had been taken to a Valvoline Instant Oil Change Center where all the fluid levels were checked and documented. The transmission was found to have been “full” shortly before the accident occurred.   It was further learned from the body shop that repaired the vehicle that no transmission fluid came out of the transmission fluid cooler lines when the cooler and radiator were removed for replacement – the fluid level was already “low” when the vehicle arrived at the shop. Furthermore, after the new cooler and radiator were installed, no transmission fluid was added before the vehicle was returned to the owner. The vehicle left the body shop with the transmission at some fluid level below “full”. Normal wear and tear on a transmission is a very gradual process. The speed of the wear process is increased when the transmission is forced to operate without lubrication, which is the purpose of the transmission fluid. However, when there is documentation of the fluid level, the process of determining transmission condition becomes a lot easier. The damage to the transmission most likely occurred as a result the accident. The transmission was leaking fluid after the vehicle was returned to the owner.

Which Came First: the Accident or the Transmission Damage?

 

Recently, we were asked to evaluate a vehicle in order to determine if the damage to the transmission occurred before or after the vehicle was involved in an accident. This was a situation where the accident involved two vehicles, a Pontiac Sunfire and a Buick Enclave. The impact occurred such that the Sunfire sustained damage on the right front side while the Enclave’s left front side was damaged. The Enclave was repaired, returned to the owner and approximately 3100 miles put on the vehicle before the transmission failed. Specifically, the transmission began making a whining noise and when put in gear, would not “pull”. One of the ways to assess when damage occurred is to construct a timeline of events that leads to the damage. That is, establish the condition of the transmission before and after the collision. In this case, the service record of the Enclave was obtained from the owner’s service garage. The record showed that the owner had the vehicle in for an oil change approximately one month prior to the accident. The particular servicing agency also provided a 21 point inspection which included checking all fluid levels. It was then established that the transmission was in good condition prior to the accident. From that piece of information, and without being able to prove that something else (like a sudden fluid leak) caused the damage, the benefit of the doubt has to go to the owner. The insurance company for the owner of the Pontiac was therefore responsible for the repair of the transmission in the Enclave. However, it should be noted that if the condition of the transmission could not have been established, the alternative would have been to remove the transmission and make a determination from the damaged parts. This is a process whereby someone is going to incur some charges. It is usually beneficial to all parties if an arrangement is made beforehand. The arrangement is usually one where the insurance company will pay for the disassembly and repair if the damage is found to have been caused by the accident. If not, then the owner has to agree to pay for the disassembly and repairs.

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