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Traffic Law – Mechanical or car failure

Mechanical or car failure

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See Maintenance of vehicle & Res ipsa loquitur



P was driving along highway when her engine cut out. Her car had power brakes but did not have power steering and no steering abnormality was found. She applied the brakes and tried to keep her vehicle straight, but was unable to keep it from pulling to the right where in the darkness of the night it came to a halt substantially on the incorrect side of the road in a diagonal position. She tried to restart the car unsuccessfully and left it with appropriate warning lights on. Another motorist warned oncoming traffic for her. Several averted colliding with P’s car, but D failed to avoid a collision. D was travelling below the 100 kph speed limit at 95-100 kph, but this was excessive in the circumstances. D failed to keep a proper lookout, as he had an unrestricted view ahead of at least 300 m, and failed to properly control his vehicle. He should have avoided hitting P’s car. D found wholly negligent. See also commentary at Res ipsa loquitur – Placing vehicle on incorrect side of road. FAI v Curtin & Duangprasert 8/8/97 [1997] QCA 241 Lee J (Full Court)


Manufacturer’s liability

See Middleton at Steering failure (mechanical)


Repairer’s Liability

See Repairer’s liability



“41 We all know that with increased speed, and especially at higher speeds, there is an increased risk of an accident in many situations. We all know that the chance of dealing safely with an unexpected event, such as mechanical failure, is likely to be less at a high speed than at a low speed. Nevertheless, the duty of a driver to exercise reasonable care does not require a driver to remain at a speed such that there is no practical risk of an accident, or no practical risk of the driver being unable to deal with an unexpected mechanical failure”. Van Den Heuvel v Tucker 20/5/03 [2003] SASC 110 Doyle CJ & Duggan J [(2003) 39 MVR 179]


Steering failure

See Steering failure (mechanical)



D was negotiating a bend in a road when he felt a heaviness in the steering wheel of his car and momentarily lost control veering to the incorrect side of the road. This was caused by a blown tyre. There was a straight stretch of about 200 m after the bend. P was riding his motorcycle in the opposite direction when he saw D’s vehicle occupying most of the carriageway in front of him. D saw P approaching when P was about 60 yards (54.86 m) away. D moved back to his correct side of the roadway but P who was confronted with this emergency situation had moved to his incorrect side of the road to avoid D only to collide with D’s vehicle at the driver’s side rear door. D found to be negligent in failing to see P sooner and failing to return to his correct side of the road more quickly but liability solely apportioned to P for the accident. Paff v Malivanek 12/12/89 [1989] NSWCA Full Court [(1989) 10 MVR 550] not on austlii


P passenger sued driver and manufacturer of retread when car she was in went on the incorrect side of the road and collided with oncoming traffic. The accident happened on a road where the speed limit was 110 kph and the car was doing approx. 100 kph. Driver heard a flapping noise which should have alerted him to the retread collapsing but drove on regardless without attempting to slow the vehicle, action which more than likely would have averted the accident. The tyre did not blow out but the tread surface stripped due to steel belt separation. Not established that the tyre defect was in existence at the time of retread or that there was any indication of underlying defect which ought to have been seen and responded to in the reasonable conduct of … [the manufacturer’s] operations” [61]. P succeeded in S75AD Trade Practices Act claim re defective tyre. “Vulcap [the manufacturer] manufactured an item which, by statutory edict and exposure to payment for damage caused ought to have a greater degree of inherent safety” [89]. Negligent tyre inspection by RTA alleged but not established. The tyre travelled 3,000 km between inspection and the accident. Driver 75% responsible … Manufacturer 25%. Cheung v Wong & Ors 10/10/01 [2001] NSWSC 881 Grove J [(2001) 34 MVR 354]


Wheel disengaged

See Gibbs at Wheel disengaged