An automotive engineering expert witness advises on a case involving a motorcyclist who crashed as a result of his headlight malfunctioning. The Wyoming-based plaintiff suffered multiple orthopedic trauma in a motorcycle accident. The night of the accident was stormy and dark. Plaintiff was traveling on a rural road with this bright lights on. When another car approached, he attempted to dim his lights, but the headlights went out completely and would not turn back on. The road curved, but the plaintiff continued straight because he could not see. He struck a guardrail travelling approximately 45 mph.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What caused the lights to fail?
- 2. How were defendants responsible for this failure?
Expert Witness Response
First, at the time that the motorcycle was designed, developed, and manufactured, the defendant’s personnel had inadequate engineering experience for the body control module (BCM) and its integration with the headlamp operations’ safety measures. Second is a lack of systematic process for producing safety-oriented automotive lighting products within the defendant company. At time the motorcycle was produced, the defendant’s business practice was a reflection of an insufficient consciousness for the importance of automotive lighting safety, performance and reliability. Based on the above-mentioned reasons, the BCM design faults were inevitable; and these design faults were the sole cause for the headlamp extinguished that led to plaintiff’s motorcycle accident.
The BCM failure that caused plaintiff’s headlamps to extinguish during his drive is not an innocent engineer error. It is the accumulation of a series of faulty or irresponsible actions of the BCM and vehicle manufacturers. The defendant did not produce adequate specifications for the BCM that accounts for operational faults or failures. The defendant did not conduct sufficient design verification tests and product validation tests that should have identified the design errors and corrected the software bugs in the BCM. The defendant did not demonstrate the necessary quality assurance process for the BCM prior to implementation on the motorcycle.
Because an automotive headlamp is a federally regulated safety device, the defendant and the BCM manufacturer have a legal obligation to build products that are designed for compliance with federal regulations. The engineering personnel who were involved in the process did not have sufficient knowledge and experience to perform the tasks. Based on my nearly 25 years of professional experience in automotive lighting industry, the development process of the BCM was an extreme departure from the reasonable and accepted engineering practices. The failure of the BCM-controlled headlamps on the motorcylce should have been, and could have been prevented if defendants were competent and conscious of their responsibility and legal obligation.