Accidents Due to Car Defects

Mar 09

For motor vehicle owners, a vehicle recall would definitely be familiar, especially if the vehicle they own is one of those that is presently, or has been, part of a recall. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a vehicle recall becomes necessary if the same problem has been cited as the cause of accidents involving vehicles of the same make and model.

Specifically, a recall is made either by the manufacturer (voluntary recall) or through a court order that is instigated by the NHTSA if:

  1. The defective vehicle or vehicle part poses a risk to the safety of the driver, passengers or anyone on the road; and,
  2. The vehicle or any of its parts has failed to comply with the minimum performance requirement established by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Minimum performance standards are aimed at ensuring the safe operation of a vehicle and the safety of all vehicle occupants (driver and passengers) from injury or death in the event of a crash; there are minimum standards for brakes, tires, lighting, air bags, safety belts, child restraints and other parts.

In September of 2014, Ford recalled more than 850,000 of its vehicles due to defective airbags and seat belts; on the month that followed, Chrysler discovered these same defects in about 184,215 of their SUVs worldwide, thus, prompting said manufacturer to recall their defective vehicles.

Vehicle recalls usually happen after consumers send their complaints to the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), a department of the NHTSA. The most recent biggest auto-safety recall in the history of the car industry in the US, thus far, involves Takata-made airbags that are said to explode, shooting potentially fatal metal fragments inside the vehicle. These (driver-side) airbags have been linked to hundreds of injuries and five deaths.

Based on records from safercar.gov, about 19 million vehicles in the US have been installed with this defective airbag; around the world, the total number of vehicles affected and, thus, being recalled, is 53 million. Some of the vehicles affected are Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Daihatsu, Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, BMW and Lexus.

The installation of airbags in vehicles was made a law by the NHTSA in 1984. This law mandated the installation of an automatic occupant protection device (such as an air bag or an automatic seat belt) in all passenger cars manufactured after April 1, 1989. Then, in 1991, the US Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which required the installation of air bags on the driver (frontal) side and passenger side in all passenger cars and light trucks that are to be manufactured after September 1, 1997; the Act also mandated the installation of manual lap-shoulder belts on the said types of vehicles which will be manufactured after September 1, 1998.

Besides airbags, defective parts or defective vehicles have also been discovered in the past, resulting to millions of vehicle recalls, like the 22 million vehicles recalled by more than 10 car manufacturers (in 2013) due to malfunctioning parts, which included steering wheels, brake pads, tires, seat belts, child seats, wipers and engines which caused gas to leak.

According to the website of personal injury lawyers at the Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg law firm, automakers have the obligation to do everything to fix the defect as soon as they become aware of it. Fixing the defect, however, does not release them from being accountable for whatever accidents it has caused. To conceal, as much as possible, the details about the defect and the accidents, many car makers, continued the said firm, reach out to victims with attractive settlement offers.

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