For millions of Americans, driving to work, school, or to carry out day-to-day tasks is routine. Each day, millions of drivers get behind the wheel of a car, truck, van, or SUV while millions more passengers ride along. Essentially, when buying a car or truck, every person makes a pact with the auto manufacturer that in exchange for money they will receive a vehicle that is well-designed, sturdily built, and rigorously tested for safety.
Unfortunately, the events that have transpired over the past several years illustrate that this best-case scenario is not always the case. Accidents routinely occur due to flaws such as a defective design, manufacturing defects, failure to warn about a known risk, and a lack of adequate safety testing. In fact, an array of high-profile recalls – including the GM ignition switch defect, Takata airbag inflator problems, and Toyota unintended acceleration glitch – illustrate that vehicle defect problems can remain unaddressed for decades or more.
When a defective vehicle or faulty component results in an accident, the injury victim may be able to collect compensation through filing an auto products liability claim. If you or someone you love was injured in an accident involving a recalled or defective vehicle, the experienced auto defect and recall lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can help you fight for maximum compensation. For more than 40 years, our lawyers have fought aggressively for our clients by holding insurance companies and auto manufacturers accountable for their mistakes. Our attorneys have over 90 collective years of experience representing accident victims strategically and aggressively. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at (215) 709-6940 today to start exploring your legal options.
What Are Potential Defects in a Car or Truck?
Unfortunately, nearly any part of a vehicle can be impacted by a defect. IN fact, due to the implementation of software in nearly all new vehicles, serious defects can also occur in the computer and electrical systems that control a vehicle. Our legal team has experience handling the following automotive defects including:
- Defective Air Bags — Airbags are one of the more important safety developments of the past three decades. However, when airbags deploy with too much force, such as in the case of the Takata inflator defect, serious injuries to the face and neck can occur. Likewise, when airbags deploy too late or with insufficient force they can hurt rather than help.
- Defective Child Seats — Many states, including Pennsylvania, now require young children to be secured in a car seat. When child car seats have problems like improper angle of recline, plastic shell breakage or fracturing, harness and latch defects, faulty harness straps, and or dangerous padding material serious injuries can occur. Car seat laws are only as effective as the car seat .
- Defective Seat Belts — Aside from airbags, the inclusion of shoulder belts as a standard safety feature has significantly improved accident outcomes. however, problems with the seatbelt such as a failure to lock on impact, unlatching during an accident, inability to disengage the latch, the breaking or tearing of belt, and retractor errors can all contribute to more severe
- Defective Tires — The most high-profile tire defect situation occurred in the early 2000s with the Firestone tire defect. However, problems with tires can include including inner liner defects, tread separation, cracking, sudden loss of inflation pressure, belt edge separation, and tire shredding.
- Exploding Gas Tanks— Gas tanks that ignite spontaneously or due to an impact typically result in more severe injuries. Incorrectly positioned including gas tanks are a known problem in certain Jeep Chrysler models. While the company has provided rear hitches and other items in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of a fuel tank explosion, the defect continues to occur. that were positioned in such a way that rear impact collisions can cause fires and explosions.
The above captures only a few of the more serious and common auto defects. If you are concerned about a defective part in your vehicle, please consult NHTSA’s SAFERCAR VIN look-up tool.
What Are the Potential Consequences of a Vehicle Defect?
Not only do dangerous and defective vehicles cause serious physical injury, the accidents they cause frequently leads to debilitating emotional trauma and costly medical bills. When you are already struggling to cope with your physical pain, psychological wounds, and healthcare expenses, the last thing you want to do is engage in a draining, frustrating battle with insurance companies and their representatives. You should not have to accept the financial consequences of an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. Consider the consequences in these scenarios:
- Toyota’s unintended acceleration defect – Toyota’s unintended acceleration defect covered approximately 30 models of popular vehicles. In a 2009 incident, a California Highway Patrolman and his family were killed when their Lexus ES350 accelerated to speeds greater than 100 mph and would not stop.
- General motors ignition switch defect – The GM ignition switch defect could result in a loss of vehicle power due to a heavy keyring or a momentary jostling of the ignition. The defect was present for more than a decade and is present in hundreds of millions of cars, trucks, and vans. The company has linked the defect to at least 120 deaths though safety advocates argue that GM’s criteria have resulted in an underreporting of deaths.
- Takata airbag inflator defect – Like the GM defect, this defect festered for more than a decade allowing it to be introduced to an ever-increasing number of vehicles. The defect resulted in severe lacerations to the face and neck. In one case, the fatal lacerations caused by the defect were mistakenly believed to be caused by a homicide.
- Vehicle software defects – As technology, self-driving, and autonomous vehicles continue to develop the risks posed by potentially defective software will continue to increase. For instance, sophisticated computer systems may provide backdoors for hackers to seize control of a vehicle. In fact, hacks of GM’s OnStar system have already been demonstrated.
What Should I Do If I Am Contacted By An Insurance Company?
If you have been contacted by an insurance company or an insurance agent, it is essential to remember that the company does not necessarily have your best interests in mind. Rather, the claims adjuster is likely to work to save his or her employer money on claims paid. In fact, the claim representative’s compensation may even include a performance-based component regarding lower than average claim payouts.
As such, we discourage accident victims from speaking with insurance representatives before contacting an experienced lawyer. Insurance companies are repeat players who understand how much much money it will take to address an injury. Injury victims rarely have this type of knowledge handy. As such it is common for an insurers to offer you a “low-ball” settlement that is inadequate to compensate for the severity of your accident and injuries.
Considering Recall History Gives Broad Window Into Auto Manufacturer’s Safety Practices
In light of the recent, serious recalls consumers may be well-served by considering a manufacturer’s recall history before purchasing a used or new vehicle. By considering how likely it is for a vehicle to have more or more recalls, the manufacturer’s response time, and other recall repair factors a consumer can make an informed decision. While past history does not guarantee that a new vehicle will be free from recalls, considering this history will open a window for the consumer to understand the likelihood of such an event.
A recent study conducted and published by iSeeCars.com utilized recall data culled from National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall databases. The study analyzes manufacture vehicle recall rates over the 31-year period from January 1985 to September 2016. The study found that, over the period, the vehicles manufacturer least likely to have a recall is Porsche (531 recalled cars for every 1,000 cars sold). Other automakers that were unlikely to have recalls for defects included:
- Mercedes-Benz (624 recalls per 1,000 vehicles)
- Kia (788/1,000)
- Tesla (936/1,000)
- Mazda (955/1,000)
The data also revealed the companies most likely to recall vehicles. A recall rate over 1,000 indicates that vehicles were recalled multiple times. The company at the bottom of the list was Volkswagen with a recall rate of 1,805 recalls per 1,000 vehicles. Other companies that were likely to issue recalls include:
- Chrysler-Fiat (FCA) (1,422 recalls per 1,000 vehicles)
- Honda (1,307 recalls per 1,000 vehicles)
- Hyundai (1,266 recalls per 1,000 vehicles)
- BMW (1,196 recalls per 1,000 vehicles)
However, merely looking at the incidence of recalls is insufficient to provide a full picture regarding vehicle safety. For instance, while GM ranks relatively well regarding recall rates, recalls for serious safety issues that can cause life-altering injuries or deaths are higher than the industry average. In contrast, Volkswagen has a high incidence of recalls, but these recalls are significantly less likely than the industry average to be serious in nature. In fact, Volkswagen boasts the third-lowest recall rate for defects with consequences that could cause injury, death, accident, or fire. This may suggest that Volkswagen is more likely to issue recalls for minor issues other manufacturers may leave unaddressed.
…And Also Consider a Company’s Response to Defects and Safety Flaws
While the most important aspect of vehicle safety is preventing defects from existing in the first place, a company’s response time to serious problems ranks a close second. After all, if your vehicle has a serious defect, you will want at problem remedied as quickly as possible. Auto companies that have significant lag time may force you to make difficult decisions like deciding to forego use of your vehicle and renting a replacement.
Companies that were highly ranked regarding defect repair timeliness include Tesla, Porsche, Jaguar/Land Rover, GM, Nissan, Hyundai, and Chrysler. Other vehicle manufacturers rank below the industry average for recall timeliness. The three companies the study found to rank worse are Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Mazda. Mazda was the only company to have less than 50 percent of recalls conducted in a non-timely manner.
Contact Our Philadelphia Auto Defect Lawyers For Help Filing A Claim
Filing a personal injury claim for an injury caused by a defective vehicle can provide the compensation you need to pay for doctor’s bills, hospital bills, and physical therapy expenses. Similarly, filing a lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer and other parties can hold the careless or reckless party accountable for their actions while theoretically preventing similar injury to others.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to an automotive defect or recalled car, contact the experienced attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm online, or call us at (215) 709-6940 for a free and private consultation.