Car Manufacturer Recalls Are On The Rise: Airbags, Fuel Leaks, and More
Westport Car Accident Lawyer
Work. Home. School. Daycare. Supermarket. We rely on our vehicles to get us from point A to point B quickly, cost effectively and safely. We trust that our cars have been manufactured properly, have been designed effectively, and will not falter in the event of an emergency. Not only has this trust recently been challenged by thousands of auto manufacturing recalls, but these numbers only continue to rise. With recalls coming from General Motors, Honda, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, and other industry leaders, we all have a reason to question the safety of our vehicles.
Airbags Remain the Primary Cause for Concern
The “trend” of manufacturer recalls traces back to Toyota’s airbag and sudden acceleration litigation. In light of these recalls, various organizations and governmental entities fined Toyota for its indiscretions, pointing to evidence that Toyota knew about the defects but failed to do anything about them. An estimated 300,000 vehicles were affected by these initial recalls, eventually leading to over nine million vehicles in total. Sudden acceleration cases skyrocketed around 2010, with nearly 100 deaths attributed to gas pedal, floor mat, and brake issues leading to uncontrollable vehicles that crashed, often at high speeds.
Airbag concerns took over again when the New York Times posted an article questioning the safety of Takata airbags, an industry leader in airbag manufacturing. As of October 2014, over 14 million vehicles distributed from 11 car manufacturers were implicated in the recall. This estimation has since multiplied, with reports that Subaru and Mitsubishi vehicles have been added to the rapidly-growing list. Japanese auto maker Honda has been disproportionately affected by this particular recall as Takata’s most lucrative customer.
Faulty Ignition Switches
Also receiving significant media attention in recent months is General Motors for their ignition switch defect that has claimed the lives of almost 50 people and injured many more. The defect allowed even the slightest touch of the key to interfere with functionality, often stalling the engine and disabling safety features, such as airbags.
Like Toyota, highway safety authorities fined General Motors for their failure to report suspected defects earlier; accusations suggest General Motors might have kept these defects under wraps for over a decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is committed to timely notification of such defects to consumers, and urges those with affected vehicles to get their vehicles inspected and faulty parts replaced as soon as possible.
Connecticut Products Liability Litigation
Undetected or unreported recalls may lead to products liability litigation, an area of civil law that seeks to compensate individuals injured due to defective design, manufacturing, quality, assembly, or distribution. In the vehicle context, these lawsuits often involve airbags, brakes, fuel pumps, gauges, tires, or ignition switches, as demonstrated by the examples above.
Duty to warn. Duty to make safe. These requirements are present in all aspects of products liability—something that injured parties allege automakers failed to do, which led to the injuries. If an auto company has a reason to believe there is a problem with one of its products, it has a duty to disclose this information and make it right. That is why, after recalls, vehicle owners are given the opportunity to take their car in for complimentary servicing so the issue can be addressed. This is also why Toyota and General Motors has been under fire for allegedly knowing about a defect, but failing to make it safe or notify those that were affected.
Parties and Ensuing Litigation
Products liability lawsuits may have many layers of responsibility. The plaintiff, who is the injured party bringing the lawsuit, may sue the companies themselves, in addition to independent parts manufacturers such as Takata, mechanics, inspectors, or other related parties. After deciding to bring a lawsuit, several things happen:
- The plaintiff files a complaint with the court. This initiates the civil lawsuit by bringing forth facts and allegations that explain why the defendant should be held responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
- The defendant(s) has/have a specified amount of time to answer the complaint and raise any affirmative defenses.
- Discovery begins, This is the part where both parties engage in fact-finding. The parties will pose questions, request production of documents, and take sworn testimony in the form of a deposition of pertinent parties or experts on the subject matter.
- After/during discovery, settlement negotiations may begin. If the parties are unable to arrive at an amicable resolution, the case may proceed to trial where a judge or jury will decide whether the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Westport, Connecticut Products Liability and Car Accident Attorney
Keep in mind that the increase in recalls could be attributed to improved safety checks, which actually will improve our overall safety in the long run. Our cars, realistically, may be as safe (or unsafe, depending on how you want to look at it) as they have always been, but manufacturers have developed better techniques to detect potential problems. In the meantime, be sure to keep your vehicle serviced, and pay attention to any manufacturer announcements that may affect the make, model, or year of your vehicle.
Even the most cautious of us cannot be shielded from the possibility of a car accident. Whether you have been adversely affected by a product recall, the negligence of another driver, or have been injured in any way due to the acts of another, you may be entitled to compensation. With Connecticut personal injury attorney Richard H. Raphael, Attorney at Law on your side, you can rest assured that you will have a zealous advocate. The Westport-based office can help you through an array of personal injury or auto accident matters, and we will make sure to explain your options in a way that you can understand. Contact the office today at (203) 226-6605 to learn more about your legal rights.