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Growing Complexity of Vehicles and Staff Shortages Prolong Auto Recalls

Last year alone, the owners of 16.2 million vehicles received that note in the mail; the note stating that their vehicle has been tabbed as a safety liability, and is being recalled. However, according to a recent report from the New York Times, these people might be the lucky ones. Millions of additional Americans have been left in a sort of “recall limbo” due to the slow movement of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigations into potential safety defects, some taking years longer than expected. For example, despite a self imposed goal of 12 months to complete engineering analyses, the Ford Explorer-Mountaineer investigation continued for 42 months, and the agencies inquiry into the G.M. truck has continued into week 25.

After reading this, our Chicago accident lawyers want to warn readers that their vehicles may have potential problems waiting to rear their ugly heads. Oftentimes manufacturers learn of manufacturing defects on their own, and inform the NHTSA of their plan to recall a vehicle. In other instances, investigations are launched due to consumer complaints. These inquiries are conducted by a little over two-dozen NHTSA investigators, whose numbers have grown by only two since 2001, despite a significant shift toward more complex vehicles. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

This equates to less than one investigator per manufacturer and supplier, leading the executive director at the Center for Auto Safety to describe the enforcement arm of the NHTSA as being “on a starvation diet.” Others have disputed this claim, citing the 134 vehicle recalls facilitated by the NHTSA’s investigators in 2012, the second-highest statistic since the government began counting recalls in the 1960’s. Still, even NHTSA workers themselves admit that government funding is waning, and this is turning their work into a ‘bureaucratic nightmare.”

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that government funding will be in the waxing phase again anytime soon, and this could mean more dangers for drivers and less regulators to find them. Automobile defects than range from harmless things like a badly wired turn signal that shorts out prematurely, to disastrous mistakes such as fuel intake problems. When one of the latter goes wrong, the results can leave families shattered and trying to pick up the pieces.

When government oversight fails, consumers may be able to take legal action to hold manufacturers accountable for auto defects. Our firm has helped consumers fight for justice for over twenty years. In one such instance, our lawyers reached a $3 million settlement against an auto manufacturer whose fuel delivery system had been improperly designed. Once sparked by an accident, the malfunctioning fuel system fed a fire that resulted in the death of all occupants of the vehicle.

Year by year many car accident statistics are steadily dropping, but manufacturing defects may present themselves as increasingly problematic in future safety issues. If you sense that something might not be right about the way your car is acting, it is better to be safe than be complacent and have the problem assessed by a professional. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a manufacturing defect please contact us to explore your legal options.