Accidents Due to Car Defects – the Reason behind Vehicle Recalls

On May 6, 2015, General Motors LLC (GM) began the recall of some of its Chevrolet Impala vehicles (model year 2014) which were manufactured between March 22, 2013, and May 22, 2014. These vehicles were found to be with brake pads that remained partially engaged with the rotors due to the failure of the electronic parking brake piston actuation arm to fully retract – a manufacturing defect that can cause excessive brake heat which, in turn, can cause fire. This safety defect is clearly failure to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Systems (FMVSS) No. 135 “Light Vehicle Brake Systems” requirement.

Many motor vehicle owners are familiar with what vehicle recall means, 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 car crash injuries involving vehicles of the same make and model.

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

  • The defective vehicle poses a risk to the safety of its driver, passengers or anyone on the road; and,
  • 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 vehicles 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 its SUVs, prompting its manufacturer to make a recall.

The most recent and biggest auto-safety recall in the history of the car industry in the U.S. involves Takata-made airbags that are said to explode, shooting potentially fatal metal fragments inside the vehicle. These exploding airbags have been linked to hundreds of injuries and five deaths.

Records from safercar.gov show about 19 million vehicles in the U.S. having been installed with this defective airbag; around the world, the number of affected vehicles is 53 million. Some of the vehicles affected are Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Daihatsu, Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, BMW and Lexus.

According to the law firm Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, “Purchasing a new vehicle or vehicle accessory is often exciting, and can mean safe transport for you and your loved ones. However, if there is a defect in the vehicle, you and your passengers could be at risk of being injured in a car accident. Although mechanical innovations and regulatory measures continue to improve, numerous auto defects still cause injury to people every year.

Any defect could cause significant injuries to a driver and his/her passengers in the event of an accident. It is quite comforting to know, therefore, that, in many cases with the help of an attorney, injured victims can successfully seek damage compensation from the party responsible for the defects.”

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The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System: Is it Enough to Stop Rollover Accidents?

Next to head-on collisions in the most number of deaths and grave injuries in the U.S. is rollover accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), close to 10,000 deaths and more than 24,000 cases of serious injuries every year are due to rollover accidents.

A rollover accident, wherein a vehicle rolls onto its side or roof, can involve any type of vehicle, but most especially: vehicles that have tires that are worn out as these can easily lose traction; those that have a greater tendency to oversteer, or turn farther than it was meant, or understeer, that is, turn lesser that intended; and, SUVs due to their design of having a higher center of gravity from the ground.

It was in the 1990s, when the production of passenger vans increased and SUVs were introduced, when the number of injuries and deaths due to rollover accidents suddenly increased.The NHTSA says that two factors have consistently emerged in 75% of all fatal rollover crashes: vehicle speed above 55mph and intoxication due to alcohol. Driving while drunk is already totally dangerous; doing it at fast speeds is suicidal.

An SUV, more so a speeding SUV, can easily slide sideways when cornering too sharply. When this happens, it can skid off the road and its tires trip on a curb, dig into soft or muddy soil, or hit a guardrail, resulting to a rollover. In another instance, it could be due to failure to remain upright while driving down a steep slope.

While drunk-driving, speeding, driver distraction, reckless driving, etc., can cause an SUV (or any other vehicle) to rollover, the NHTSA and car manufacturers see this vehicle’s inability to remain stable to be the real cause of the problem. To correct this fault in design, three giant car manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Toyota introduced in 1995 the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. ESC, also called dynamic stability control (DSC) or electronic stability program (ESP), is a computerized technological safety device designed to improve vehicle stability through detection and reduction of skidding or loss of traction. It actually consists of sensors that are able to sense loss of vehicle control. When loss of control occurs, ESC automatically applies brakes on each wheel to allow the driver to regain control of the vehicle and put it back on track. ESC also helps maintain vehicle stability during abrupt turns, eliminates any likelihood of oversteering and understeering, and improves traction and vehicle control on road shoulders, gravel patches and slippery or icy roads.

“Advances in technology and increased awareness of the importance of safety on the roads have, in recent years, reduced the threat posed to public health and safety by car accidents. Nevertheless, car accidents remain one of the leading causes of serious injury and wrongful death in the United States each year, and the sad truth is that far too many of these accidents could easily have been prevented.” (http://www.rrs-law.com/practice-areas/car-accidents/)

Tucson car accident lawyers of Russo Russo & Slania “believe that victims of car accidents in Tucson should not have to pay for the consequences that they may face if someone else was to blame for their injuries. Fortunately, through the protections afforded by personal injury law, victims may not have to. In fact, they are often entitled to financial compensation and justice that allows them to better deal with the aftermath of a car accident.”

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Trucks: Indispensable Threats on the Road?

Sharing the road with really huge vehicles, specifically, trucks or 18-wheelers, is one experience that drivers of smaller vehicles will never be able to do away with. For, though, trucks are considered threats on the road due to their size and weight, so that even the least error from their driver can cause major damage to properties and/or severe in jury to other drivers, motorcyclists or pedestrians, their important contribution to the nation’s economy make these vehicles indispensable.

Trucks are usually 70 feet long, weigh about 80,000 lbs. or 40 tons, and have a stance that is designed much higher than cars. These qualities, which make truck drivers safer and more secure (than cars) during accidents, however, are the very same qualities that make these vehicles much more challenging to operate and handle. First, due to their size and weight, maneuvering becomes more difficult, capability to avoid collisions is reduced, and, to come to a full stop, longer stopping distance is required plus tires that will provide great traction and a breaking system that will effectively enable deceleration. Second, though a truck’s higher stance gives drivers a commanding and greater view of the road ahead, it, nevertheless, lessens their view of what’s behind and at the sides, especially the right side, of their vehicle (these areas are known as the “no zone” areas or “truckers’ blind spots” where drivers either have limited or no visibility at all). Worse, this higher design could only mean a higher center of gravity – the major cause of rollover accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records about 500,000 truck accidents every year; about 4,000 of these are fatal. According to a group of researchers, who studied causes of truck crashes, the most common factors that led to an accident included: poor truck driver performance; driver fatigue; mechanical failure or truck parts that fail to function properly; lack of familiarity with roadway; intoxication due to alcohol, illegal drug, or prescription or over-the-counter drugs; failure of trucking companies to properly screen applicant truck drivers; wrong distribution of cargo weight; and, failure of trucking firms to properly train their drivers.

A person’s failure to perform what is part of his/her duty is considered negligence. Now, while some accidents are results of things or events that man cannot control, many more are due to someone’s failure to act diligently, thus, rendering so many road accidents as should-have-been prevented misfortunes.

A Louisville personal injury attorney could be aware of the possible serious consequences of a truck accident on a victim’s life. While some injuries may cause a victim to be bedridden for a number of days or weeks, other injuries are too severe, resulting to a disability or a condition that will alter his/her (and his/her family’s) way of life for a long, long time.

In any type of accident, even a simple, yet also harmful, slip and fall, it is often necessary to seek legal assistance for the possible legal actions a victim may decide to pursue, as well as for the compensation that he/she may be entitled to receive.

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Car Accidents Resulting from Tire Explosions

When travelling at high speeds, a tire explosion can lead to serious injuries or even death. The integrity of a vehicle’s tires can spell the difference between a minor mishap to total wreckage of one or more vehicles, especially in a densely travelled area.

Losing tire tread means loss of control, which can easily lead to a roll over no matter what type of vehicle one is driving when travelling at high speeds. This is because it can result in yawing, which is when the vehicle swings to the side. Loss of control of the vehicle would make it difficult to reverse this sideways motion, causing the vehicle to tip over, possibly involving other vehicles in the immediate vicinity. While the accident may be said to be no one’s fault, liability may accrue to the tire manufacturer, depending on why the blowout occurred. There are several types of tire blowouts resulting from a defect in the manufacturing or design of the tire itself.

Bead failure explosions occur when a design defect affects the tire mounting process. This usually occurs in light truck and passenger tires with a .037 inch weftless configuration. When the bear wire is impeded during inflation, it can exert low pressures that will nevertheless cause the tire to explode at pressures as low as 38 pounds per inch.  Such an explosion may result in severe injuries if it occurs close to a flat surface.

Another cause for tire explosions is when there the sidewall of the tire has a defect that will result in a zipper failure. Such incidents often occur when the tire is being inflated, and there is no way to determine if a particular tire has this inherent weakness.

In either case, serious injuries or death can result, and the liability lies with the manufacturer. If such an incident occurs, a report which specifies a defect in the design or manufacture of the tire may be the basis for a product liability lawsuit.

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Air Bag Defects Can Cause Serious Injury

Air bag defects are causing car manufacturers a lot of headaches recently. A recall of more than 3 million cars worldwide was due to suspected air bag defects causing improper inflation. The air bags were supplied by Takata Corportation to Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. Chrysler is also recalling its 2013 Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Ram Cargo Van models because of a spotty software may cause the side air bags to inflate on the wrong side of the vehicle i.e. not the side where the crash occurred.

Air bags are supposed to increase the safety of a vehicle’s passengers in the event of a crash or accident, and in most instances it does. But when a product has a design flaw or manufacturing defect, it can end up causing serious injury instead of preventing it. The problem with air bag defects is that it often only becomes apparent when something bad happens and subsequent investigations reveal the culprit. According to the website of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ®, in some cases, it may not even be possible to identify the proximate cause of injury because the vehicle was too damaged for forensic investigation.

While air bags are a great idea, advances in technology are making the permutations for air bag defects higher. As the system becomes more interactive and complex, the number of moving parts and steps in assembly increases the chances of a glitch happening, and makes it more difficult to catch a mistake. On the other hand, millions of lives have been saved by properly functioning air bag systems. It’s a catch 22 all around, and all you can do is hope that the batch of air bags you in your car is a good one.

Making a manufacturer pay for any product defect that may cause injury to consumer is not only your right but a responsibility. Once confronted with glitches in their products, many manufacturers try to fix them as soon as they can in order to minimize lawsuits and keep more of their money. Consult with a product liability lawyer and find out your legal options to set things right.

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Personal Injuries Due to Rollover Accidents: Injuries which Ought to be Compensated

The continuous increase in the number of motor vehicles on US roads seems to give rise to the increase in the number of vehicular accidents annually too. This number exceeds five million every year, leaving more than 2 million seriously injured and 40,000 dead.

There are two main types of motor vehicle accidents: the first is that which fall within the driver’s control, like speeding, reckless driving, driver error (such as failure to use signal light) and the many different forms of driver distraction; the second type lies outside of the driver’s control, such as road defects and car defects which can be blamed on the manufacturer.

Either type can result to (head-on, angle or side impact, run-off-road, and rear-end) collisions, with the extent of damage and severity of injuries usually dependent on the speed of either or both vehicles. Besides collisions, there is another accident, which is much more damaging, to which both types can result to – rollover accident.

Rollover accident is the next deadliest type of road accident after head-on collisions. It almost always results to high rates of severe injuries and fatalities due to collapsing vehicle roofs, leaving the driver and passengers crushed inside. Among all types of vehicles, SUVs are the ones most prone to rollover accidents as their center of gravity is higher from the ground compared to cars. For this reason, manufacturers have introduced devices, like the electronic stability control system (ESC), which would give drivers more control of the vehicle, reducing the chance of a rollover.

The usual causes of roof collapse that result to the vehicle’s occupants being crushed inside are roof pillar failure, defective roof materials, faulty vehicle design or roof pillar placement and intrusion of the roof into the occupants’ space. All these causes can be attributed to manufacturer’s fault or negligence, while the injury (or death) that they cause is called personal injury.

A personal injury is any harm sustained due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior. Victims who suffer personal injuries would find the information found on National Injury Law Center‘s website really helpful and a relief as the site says that civil law provides innocent victims of others’ negligence the opportunity to pursue action in the form of a personal injury claim; this is to allow victims to receive from the guilty party the compensation that they legally deserve. Generally, the guilty party’s auto insurance will cover personal injuries caused by their driving, but that depends on their policy. The website of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® has more information on this subject.

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Speeding: A Major Injustice on the Road

Every day, millions of cars fill US roads and highways, carrying people from one place to another. The convenience, comfort and speed of travel that a car provides passengers have made this means of transportation a necessity for Americans, as well as for people around the world. But like any other piece of invention, if abused, it always causes bad results.

One sad thing about cars is that many drivers do not know how to use them responsibly. Once behind the wheels, drivers easily forget all the education, advertisements and reminders that speak about road traffic rules and safe driving that will ensure their and everyone else’s safety on the road.

As a result, more than five million vehicular accidents are registered every year, with at least 40 thousand of these resulting to deaths. The top four causes of car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), are reckless driving, speeding, drunk-driving or driving under the influence (DUI) and driver error, such as failure to wear a seatbelt. And among these causes, the third largest number of lives is lost through speeding. It is totally surprising, however, to know that the many drivers who are scared of speeding and hate speeders are guilty of driving over the speed limit too.

Speeding increases the chance of an accident and, thus, compromises the safety of others on the road. The website of Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, states the ill-effects of speeding in the plainest language when it says that speeding makes the road dangerous and the possibility of an accident higher since it:

  • Reduces the driver’s reaction time to danger
  • Makes slowing down or stopping the vehicle much harder
  • Lessens the driver’s control over the vehicle

The website of Spiros Law, P.C., likewise denounces speeding and questions the recklessness of other drivers, stating that irresponsible or negligent drivers have no right to cause innocent victims to suffer. No matter what the reason speeders have for going over the speed limit and it does not matter too if they do not mean to do it; only one fact holds – they make the road dangerous for everyone else.

Thus, if you or someone close to you becomes involved in an accident due to another driver’s speeding, make sure you contact a highly competent personal injury lawyer immediately. He / She will definitely be your ticket in bringing the culprit to justice to make him / her realize the great injustice he / she has committed.

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