Articles Posted in Design Defect in Vehicle

There have been nearly 400 million vehicles recalled for design defects since the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. That’s a huge number, and it might lead one to believe that there are millions of cars out there that are being poorly made. However, at Levin & Perconti we choose to look at the glass half full; our lawyers see this huge number as a sign that regulatory agencies and automotive companies alike are doing what is right, working hard to correct potentially dangerous errors and keep our nation’s drivers safe. Automotive recalls have saved countless lives, and continue to be a crucial cog in the building of company-client trust. Still, sometimes defects go undetected or are ignored, and this can lead to serious consequences for companies and victims alike.
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When most people think of car accidents, they think of events caused by some sort of human error, negligence, or just plain recklessness. While it’s true that these factors often play a role in crashes, many of us fail to recognize that motor vehicle design defects and faulty products are also frequently to blame for wrongful deaths and personal injuries. In the United States, we are fortunate enough to be protected by federal regulatory agencies like the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This means that when we buy a vehicle at our local dealership, we can be pretty sure that it will work properly and in a way that doesn’t compromise our safety.

The NHTSA maintains this level of consumer confidence by carefully monitoring the automotive industry for potentially dangerous design defects and products. When an automobile or component is found to have a serious safety defect, recalls are promptly conducted to correct the problem before it has the chance to injure the general public. Since the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, approximately 390 million cars, trucks buses, motorcycles, motor scooters, and other recreational vehicles have been recalled, and an additional 127 million tires and pieces of auto equipment have also been recovered in order to correct safety issues. Below are some of the most important areas of concern for product liability and recalls: (Lawyers and Settlements)
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As consumers whenever we buy a product, we do so in good faith that its manufacturer and distributors have taken the necessary steps to ensure our safety, and the automotive industry is no different. In the United States, before a company’s vehicles can be approved for distribution to consumers, they must go through an extensive screening process to ensure that they are safe to operate. Our lawyers have fought and won a number of cases against negligent manufacturers and distributors, and we are proud of the important role that our legal team has played in holding companies accountable for the products they produce and distribute. What follows is a brief description of the quality control and safety process that every automobile must undergo to be sold in the U.S., to give you a better idea of the multitude of factors that add up to a safe vehicle.

We often take the reliability of our cars for granted, but every time you get from point A to point B without a hitch, the Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) is the institution you should thank. This federal research facility is run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and conducts research and vehicle tests with the goal of saving lives, preventing injuries, and reducing health care expenses and other economic costs. Research and testing generally covers anything from crash avoidance and crash worthiness, to biomechanics, all of which are crucial components in improving vehicle performance and protecting vehicle occupants. As a regulatory body, the VRTC is both proactive and reactive, and also investigates potential safety defects in vehicles that have already been distributed.
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Auto design defects can lead to a variety of devastating injuries, and thousands of people are injured each year as a result of negligence on the part of a manufacturer. Federal laws require all automotive manufacturers to alert the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a safety-related design fault or lack of compliance within 5 business days of its discovery, in order to expedite the recall process and minimize harm to the consumer. When companies in charge of automotive production fail to take proper action, it not only places their own customers in danger, but everyone else on the road as well. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Today, the NHTSA announced that General Motors would pay a $35 million civil penalty for their failure to report safety defects related to faulty ignition switches in millions of vehicles to the federal government in a timely manner. This record action is the single highest civil penalty to ever stem from an NHTSA recall investigation. Additionally, GM will be subject to unprecedented oversight requirements, and a Consent Order signed with the agency also ordered GM to enact a significant number of changes with regard to their internal review process for safety-related issues. All provisions of the Consent Order will be immediately enforceable in federal court if GM does not fully comply. The NHTSA hopes that the GM settlement will send a message to all manufacturers that they will be held accountable for any failure to quickly report and address safety-related defects. (USA Today)

Our lawyers have represented plaintiffs in Chicago product liability lawsuits for more than twenty years, and in that time we have taken on many corporations and manufacturers for their negligence in marketing unsafe products to consumers. In that time, our legal team has taken particular pride in in the changes that our efforts have made. Not only have we recovered substantial verdicts and settlements for our clients, but we have also ensured that defective products were removed from the market, preventing them from causing any future pain and suffering.

Throughout the course of any given year, it is common for both automotive companies, as well as the manufacturers of various vehicle parts and components to recall defective or unsafe products from the market. According to a recall report recently produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 650 safety recalls were enacted in 2012 alone, affecting nearly 18 million vehicles, child seats, and other pieces of equipment. The vast majority of these recalls were conducted by a responsible party immediately after they became aware of an issue, and this is essential to keeping consumers safe. However, when companies fail to act on their knowledge of design defects in a timely manner, they place millions of drivers in serious danger. In these scenarios, our civil justice system is crucial to protecting the rights of victims, and in subsequent lawsuits, personal injury lawyers play an essential role in holding corporations accountable when they put profits over people.

In this regard, 2014 has proven to be a tumultuous year for the automotive giant, General Motors (GM). During the initial three months of the calendar year, the company recalled 2.6 million of its small engine vehicles due to potential safety problems related to faulty ignition switches. The issue made it possible for ignition switches to easily be bumped, brushed or pulled from ‘on’ to ‘accessory’ or ‘off’ while vehicles were in motion, disabling the power steering and power breaks, as well as preventing the airbags from deploying in the event of an accident. The cause of such failures has since been attributed to a lack of torque, or pressure, being supplied by the switch indent plungers in these vehicles, which had been improperly designed.

This defect was not disclosed by GM, but was instead discovered by an attorney, who had sued the company on behalf of the family of a woman killed in an accident the ignition problem caused. It was found that GM had been holding meetings about the safety hazards of the issue as early as 2005, but had decided against a recall because it would take too long and cost an excessive amount of money. Because of this negligence, at least 12 other people have died in crashes involving these vehicles. (NHTSA; USA Today)

As we all know, mistakes will happen; this is as true for brilliant automotive engineers as it is for everyone else. However, automobile recall laws are in place to ensure that when potentially dangerous automotive design defects occur during the manufacturing or production process of a vehicle, they are addressed quickly and efficiently in a way that protects consumers from harm as much as possible.

Today, the world’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Corporation, announced its plan to recall some 6.39 million vehicles that the company has manufactured and sold across the globe due to several different design faults involving parts and components. This global call back represents the second largest recall announcement for Toyota, and will span 27 models.

According to reports, the announcement cited 5 different safety issues among the recalled vehicles, the largest of which being faulty spiral steering wheel cables in approximately 3.5 million vehicles. Officials say that these cables could be damaged when the steering wheel is turned, which may cause the driver’s airbag to fail during an accident. The second largest of the 5 Toyota recalls involves 2.32 million three-door models produced between January of 2005 and August 2010. This will aim to fix seat rail issues, which could cause a driver or passenger’s seat to slide forward in the event of a crash, risking serious injury. Some of the other issues addressed by the recall include problems related to steering column brackets, windshield wiper motors and engine starters. It is estimated that roughly 2.34 million of the vehicles included in Toyota’s recall were sold in North America. (Thomson Reuters)

Product liability is a branch of personal injury law that deals primarily with dangerous and defective products put (or kept) on the market because of negligent manufacturers. Since 1966, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required companies and affiliates to recall nearly 400 million motor vehicles, 46 million tires and 66 million other components to correct potentially dangerous auto design defects and keep consumers safe while on the road.

Earlier this month, a consumer alert was released pertaining to the following recalled General Motors vehicles and model years:

• 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt

Our lawyers have a wealth of experience helping clients seek compensation for the wrongful injuries caused by negligent and reckless individuals. However, personal injury lawsuits aren’t always filed against individuals, so it is important to have a legal team on your side that is well versed in taking on companies and municipalities as well. This is especially true in the case of automobile design defects.

Earlier this month, Graco Children’s Products announced that it would be recalling nearly 3.8 million car seats because of the risk that faulty safety buckles may make it difficult to free a child in the event of an emergency. This is the largest such recall in five years, as well as one of the largest in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s history, but some officials believe it hasn’t gone far enough.

The NHTSA recently issued a letter to Graco requesting that another 1.8 million car seats be incorporated into the recall, due to the face that they included the same buckles, threatening to take legal action to force a recall if the additional car seats were not fixed. Currently, the following seat models (2009-2013 production years) are included in the recall:

Some 6 million automobile accidents occur on roadways in the United States every year. These accidents injured 3 million people last year, and cost approximately 40,000 their lives. Driving can be a dangerous task, and that is why we, as consumers, expect our vehicles to be safe and free of potentially dangerous design defects. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the number of annual recalls issued in our country may surprise you.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, the last year in which data was available, motor vehicle manufacturers filed a staggering 650 safety recalls. That equates to 17.8 million vehicles, child seats, and various other components that were sold to consumers with potentially dangerous design faults. It is important to note that a large number of recalls is not always a bad thing, and many manufacturers are able to catch problems before they ever have a chance to hurt consumers. However, design defects can become a serious problem when they go unaddressed, and such negligence on the part of companies may be grounds for an injury or wrongful death lawsuit. (NHTSA)

Some of the most common problems caused by automobile defects include:

Product liability lawsuits focus on recovering compensation for injuries and deaths caused by dangerous and defective products. This can mean negligence on the part of a manufacturer, a seller, or a multitude of other parties, but when these accidents do happen, they can have severe and life altering affects on their victims.

A truck driver remains in critical condition after being injured in an anhydrous ammonia tank explosion. The victim, a 50-year-old man from Peoria, Illinois, had reportedly been towing two anhydrous ammonia tanks on Illinois Route 40 early Thursday morning when the tanks began rocking back and forth, causing him to lose control. One tank immediately exploded, while the other began to leak anhydrous ammonia gas. A bystander and a nearby Illinois State Police Trooper both witnessed the accident, and pulled the driver to safety. The man was transported to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. (Journal Star)

Thousands of people are injured annually because of design defects in vehicles, trailers, and other aspects of automotive equipment. Our Illinois personal injury lawyers are very proud of the fact that we have not only recovered substantial settlements for our clients, but that we have also aided in the removal of dangerous products from the market to prevent them from causing any further injuries or suffering.

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