Virginia Family Awarded $14 Million in Damages from Hyundai For Son’s Car Crash Injuries

The family of a 16-year-old driver in Virginia was awarded $14 million in damages by a Virginia jury after the side airbag in the car the boy was driving one night in February 2010 failed to deploy after he crashed the vehicle.

In its verdict, the jury ruled that Hyundai Motor America, which sold the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon the teen was driving that night, “breached the implied warranty of merchantability, meaning the company made a vehicle that was ‘unreasonably dangerous,'” according to a story in The Roanoke (VA) Times. The jury found that the breach of merchantability is what caused serious, life-changing injuries to the youth, Zachary “Gage” Duncan, who suffered a severe brain injury in the crash.

The crash on Feb. 27, 2010, put Duncan in a hospital for treatment of a coma, according to the newspaper. Following his hospitalization, he had to spend time in a rehabilitation center where he had to relearn how to talk and walk, the paper reported.

The brain injuries occurred when the boy’s head struck the roof rail of the Tiburon as the vehicle smashed into a tree, The Roanoke Times reported. Just before the crash, Duncan’s vehicle passed another car that was being driven by his friend, then “ran off the right side of the road, hit a snowbank, traveled down a hill, hit a hay bale and then struck a tree.”

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who argued that because the impact into the tree didn’t deploy the side airbag in the vehicle, that the sensor meant to deploy the airbag was improperly situated under the driver’s seat, where it didn’t protect the driver, the story reported.

Had the airbag sensor been properly located where it would have detected the crash and activated the airbag, the boy might have been prevented from suffering his severe injuries, his attorney argued.

The teen’s parents, Keith and Vanessa Duncan, also sued the car dealership where they bought the Tiburon for their son, but that case was settled out of court with an undisclosed award, the paper reported.

A spokesman for Hyundai told the Reuters news service that the company “strongly disagrees with the verdict” and will appeal. “Hyundai had argued that the car’s airbag system met federal safety standards and had been thoroughly tested and found to be safe. The company had said that Duncan rolled his vehicle into a tree, and that a side air bag would not have kept him from being injured.”

The case was previously in court in September 2012 but ended in a mistrial when those jurors said they could not reach a decision in the case.

The new jury awarded the family $14 million for Duncan’s injuries, including $140,000 for medical expenses related to his original hospital treatment and for his rehabilitation hospital stay, according to The Roanoke Times. Duncan, who is now 20 years old, will have to live in a long-term, supervised facility due to his brain injuries from the crash, the paper reported. The estimated price tag for lifetime care for the victim is more than $11 million.

Tiburons were built by Hyundai from 2003 to 2008, when they were discontinued, reported Reuters.

Vehicle safety is a critical factor to consider today when buying any new or used vehicle for your family.

In May, new tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that only two widely-available small SUV models earned ratings of “good” or “acceptable” out of a field of 13 small SUVs that were run through certain frontal crashes called “small overlap” crashes, according to a previous MyPhillyLawyer blog post. The Hyundai Tiburon was not included in the IIHS study.

The crash that injured Duncan is the kind of incident that happens every day across the United States when people suffer terrible, life-changing traumas due to the actions or indifference of others.

That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.