Jurors in California will now debate what may have led to a terrible auto accident in 2011 that left a young woman and her two children seriously injured following a head-on collision with a Ford F-250. Experts say the jury’s decision regarding whether Ford Motor Company might be liable for the accident could be worth up to $200 million.
About the Accident
The auto accident happened in June of 2011 when Brittany Gilchrist and her two young daughters were driving to a relative’s home near Yosemite Lakes, California. Brittany says she was heading south when the left front tire of an oncoming Ford F-250 diesel truck blew out. The tire blowout caused the truck to drift into Gilchrist’s lane, eventually striking her car head on. The accident left Brittany with several broken bones and a brain injury while her daughters suffered similar trauma.
Negligence & Product Liability
What prompted the eventual lawsuit against Ford for negligence and product liability was the fact that the Ford F-250 in question was equipped with a Hydro Boost steering and braking system. The technology, which was only installed on Ford diesel trucks made between 1999 and 2002, has an unusual feature of an interconnected braking and steering system which lets the two components share hydraulic fluid. In the vast majority of vehicles these power steering systems are completely separate.
Dangerous Hydro Boost System
Gilchrist’s attorney says that it’s this Hydro Boost system that led to the terrible accident and that Ford should be held accountable for its design flaws. Gilchrist’s attorney says that the Hydro Boost system was flawed in that when a driver slams on his or her brakes, it deprives hydraulic fluid from the steering system, making it virtually impossible to control the vehicle. In this case, the driver of the Ford said that after his tire blew he slammed his brakes hard for three full seconds, creating a 245-foot-long skid mark. At the same time he attempted to steer his Ford out of Gilchrist’s lane of traffic, but said that he was unable to turn the wheel.
Gilchrist’s attorney says that this is not the only instance of trouble with the Hydro Boost system. Instead, they contend that Ford’s own engineers had complained about the dangers of the system and outside experts had similarly raised concerns. Gilchrist’s attorney also pointed to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation that found that the Hydro Boost system gives priority to the braking system over the steering system. All these worries fell on the deaf ears of Ford executives who have refused to recall the vehicles with Hydro Boost or offer any retrofits.
Ford Claims Trouble with the Tire
For its part, Ford claims that the trouble was with the tire, which was not a Ford product. Ford’s lawyers say the tire blew and that, combined with the driver’s speed of 7 miles an hour above the posted limit, were responsible for the terrible accident. Ford’s lawyers acknowledge that in cases where a person hits the brake very hard it can become somewhat more difficult to steer the vehicle, but only slightly and not enough to lead to the accident in this case.