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What Happens When the Govt. Fails to Address Auto Defects that Cause Injuries and Deaths?

On March 8, 2014, the New York Times published an article noting that auto regulators had repeatedly dismissed an alleged defect tied to 13 deaths.  The New York Times article noted that federal safety regulators received more than 260 complaints over the last 11 years about General Motors vehicles that suddenly turned off while being driven, yet government agency officials declined to investigate the problem.

Recent Automotive Recall Notices

General Motors acknowledges the problem has been linked to 13 deaths and has now issued a recall for more than 1.6 million General Motors vehicles on the road.  The recall notice issued by General Motors in March 2014 notes “General Motors has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in 2005 -2007 model year Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-2007 model year Chevrolet HHR, 2005-2006 model year Pontiac Pursuit, 2006-2007 model year Pontiac Solstice, 2007 model year Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 model year Saturn Ion, and 2007 model year Saturn Sky vehicles. The General Motors recall notice indicates a risk that under certain conditions the ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine.  This risk increases if a key ring is carrying added weight, such as more keys or a key fob or the vehicle, experiences rough road conditions, or other jarring impact-related events.  If the ignition switch is not involved in the run position, the airbags may not deploy if a vehicle is involved in a crash increasing the risk of injury or fatality. Owners and operators of the above noted vehicles should immediately contact General Motors or their General Motors automobile service agency to have recall repairs performed.  Until all repairs are performed, it is important that all items be removed from the key ring leaving only the vehicle key.  All recall repairs will be performed at no charge.

Automotive Manufacturing Defects are More Common than You Might Think

Our law firm recently completed a case where a stalled vehicle was rear-ended and the operator was killed upon impact in a rear-end collision.   We remain concerned that despite repeated complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to respond in a timely fashion stating that there was not enough evidence of a problem to warrant the safety investigation.  One death is one too many. NHTSA has now announced that they will investigate why General Motors delayed the recall of more than 1.37 million vehicles when it knew a defect existed for as long as a decade.  Documents indicate that General Motors was aware of the problem in which ignition switches could inadvertently move to the off position since 2004.  NHTSA had queried General Motors about it as early as 2007. In 2013, General Motors resolved a case with the family of Brook Melton, a Georgia nurse, who was killed in a car accident in 2010 when her 2005 Chevy Cobalt lost power.  According to sources, an attorney representing the Melton family had learned that one of GM’s engineers had experienced the same problem during a test drive in 2004 before the vehicle was even on sale. NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is supposed to be dedicated to achieving the highest standard of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety and their website notes that NHTSA works daily to prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial. Unfortunately as a trial lawyer who has committed over three decades litigating death and catastrophic injury cases against automobile manufacturers resulting from automotive product liability, I am well aware that many times governmental agencies “fail to carry out the law” when they do not force automobile manufacturers to fix problems and issue recalls when they become aware of them.  Until the federal government more diligently investigates and closes the loopholes, it will be left to the trial lawyers to police the system and protect the rights of those killed or injured when automobile manufacturers emphasize profitability over safety.

If You Have been Injured as a Result of an Accident Caused by a Manufacturing Defect

You may be entitled to compensation.  It is critically important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney as early in the process as possible.  A Berks County car accident lawyer at The Reiff Law Firm is available for a free initial consultation. Call us today at (215) 709-6940.

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