The year 2014 saw more motor-vehicle recalls than any year in history. While recalls are often prompted by injuries or deaths found to have been caused by specific vehicle or vehicle safety-equipment defects, others may be instituted upon discovery of defects that have not yet led to injury-causing accidents. Recalls made for either reason are largely dependent for their timing on reporting by automakers of potential defects, information received regarding accident injuries and deaths, and damage and warranty claims made by consumers. The Early Warning Reporting (EWR) regulations promulgated and enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) require automakers to make such reports on a quarterly basis.
Honda Motor Company (Honda) was revealed in November 2014 to have failed to report 1,729 injuries and deaths between July 2003 and June 2014, in direct violation of EWR regulations. At least eight of the unreported incidents were said to be related to Takata airbag ruptures that have led to massive recalls across the automotive industry. As a result of Honda’s failure to submit the required reports, the automaker will pay a total of $70 million in penalties to the U.S. government (in two installments of $35 million each), which will be the largest total penalty paid by an auto manufacturer, to date, as a result of a NHTSA investigation.
Some have suggested that NHTSA has also reneged on its duties. While NHTSA officials have reportedly proclaimed that NHTSA will not tolerate automaker violations of EWR regulations, NHTSA itself has been accused of dragging its feet in the policing and enforcement of EWR requirements. Honda has been said to have stated that its reporting violations were due to a “data entry glitch” involving codes on forms sent to the Product Regulatory Office (PRO) for submission (by the PRO) of Honda’s EWR data to NHTSA, and that Honda was advised of the reporting glitch by NHTSA in the latter part of 2011. Yet, Honda is reported to have made no move to correct the error after receiving the notification in 2011—and NHTSA to make no move to impose a penalty until 2014.
While violations of EWR regulations or delays in vehicle recalls will not result in vehicle-manufacturer liability for traffic-accident injuries and deaths, injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by defects in vehicles or vehicle safety equipment may lead to the strict liability of manufacturers and others involved in the production and sale of the defective vehicles. If you have been injured or one of your family members has been killed in a car or other vehicle accident due to a vehicle or vehicle safety-equipment defect, you may be entitled to compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm has extensive experience with car and other traffic-accident cases, including those arising out of accidents and/or injuries caused by vehicle and safety-equipment defects. Contact The Killino Firm’s nationally respected team of injury lawyers for dedicated and aggressive assistance with your case.
Holding Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Responsible for Injuries and Deaths Caused by Vehicle Defects
Even when an automaker has issued a vehicle recall for known or suspected defects, the automaker and others may be held legally responsible for vehicle-accident injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by a vehicle or vehicle safety-equipment defect. Under general products-liability law, manufacturers and others involved in the production and sale of defective motor vehicles may be held liable for such injuries and deaths despite having issued recalls before accidents occur. These defendants may also be held responsible for defect-related injuries and deaths even if none of them was negligent in producing or selling the defective vehicles.
Among the many bases for car and other motor-vehicle recalls in 2014 were defective airbags that may project dangerous or deadly shrapnel when deployed and ignition switches that may disable airbags, seatbelts, and power steering and brakes. Before and after recalls are issued, and with or without manufacturers’ prior knowledge of these or other vehicle defects, those who take part in a vehicle’s production and distribution may be held strictly liable, in a products-liability action, for injuries or deaths found to have occurred as a result of a vehicle or safety-equipment defect. Thus, defendant car or other vehicle designers and manufacturers, parts designers and manufacturers, parts suppliers, assemblers, wholesalers, and, in some states, vehicle retailers, may be held liable, without proof or evidence of negligence, for accident injuries and deaths found to have resulted from certain types of vehicle or safety equipment defects.
The types of defects that may lead to such “strict” products liability include defects in the design or manufacture of a vehicle or vehicle safety equipment that render the vehicle “unreasonably dangerous” for its intended and expected use. Defects may also occur as a result of a failure to adequately warn of certain dangers associated with a product’s use or to adequately instruct regarding a product’s proper and safe use. Vehicles that contain airbags that project shrapnel when deployed or ignition switches that disable safety equipment and shut off power, for example, may be found to contain design and/or manufacturing defects that render the vehicles unreasonably dangerous for consumers’ use.
Obtain Legal Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.
The Killino Firm’s accident, defective-products, and wrongful-death attorneys have received national recognition for their dedication to holding manufacturers of defective motor vehicles and motor-vehicle safety equipment responsible for the injuries and deaths caused by their defective products. If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in a car or other motor-vehicle accident and you suspect that your injuries or loved one’s death were due to a motor-vehicle or motor-vehicle safety equipment defect, The Killino Firm can help you obtain the justice you deserve for your injuries or loved one’s death.