2014 can now claim a dubious distinction: the year has now exceeded the previous yearly record for vehicle recalls due to dangerous safety defects. In light of the massive number of safety problems reported in 2013, many major automakers took a beating regarding the public’s confidence in these companies to produce safe and reliable vehicles for day-today life. Unlike many past automotive safety problems, even the regulator responsible for the safety of vehicles sold in the United States, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has taken heat for the failure to detect these problems before they became a crisis.
GM Ignition Switch Defect Was the Largest Single Recall of the Year
The GM ignition switch defect involved defective ignition switches provided by major parts supplier, Delphi. The defective ignition switches were prone to slipping out of position when they were utilized with a heavy keying or when a “jarring event”, like a bump in the road or slamming on the brakes, occurred. When the ignition switch moves out of position, affected vehicles will lose engine power. The loss of engine power will mean that the driver may lose control of the vehicle. Exacerbating this situation even further, the loss of engine power means that in the event of an accident or collision, safety features, like vehicle airbags, will not function.
Unfortunately this defect has already produced, at least, 45 deaths and 67 confirmed injuries. These numbers are based upon claims that have already been accepted and approved by the GM ignition switch compensation fund. The number of deaths and injuries are almost assuredly higher, since 738 claims are still under review. 783 claims have been submitted but review is pending until supporting documentation is provided. The deadline to submit a claim to the General Motors ignition switch compensation fund is January 31, 2015.
Takata’s Exploding Airbags Affected Numerous Auto Manufacturers
Takata’s defective airbags represents the second major auto defect of 2014. The Takata defect affected a broad array of major auto manufacturers’ model years 2002 through 2008. the affected companies include:
- General Motors
The airbag issue was initially thought to be either limited to or most prevalent in areas with high relative humidity. Thus in the initial stages of the recall, the recall was generally limited to coastal areas in the southern United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam. However, since the initial announcement of the recall, it has been expanded to cover vehicles nationwide.
The defect was due to defective airbag inflators which were prone to deploying with excessive force. In at least one instance, the airbags deployed with such an excessive amount of force that the resulting neck and facial injuries were believed to be the product of a violent attack. The matter was investigated as a homicide prior to the realization that it was metal shrapnel launched by the defective airbag that caused the injuries. In all, the defect has resulted in millions of recalled vehicles, 4 fatalities and more than 100 injuries.
NHTSA Faces Scrutiny From Senators Regarding Failures to Detect Safety Problems
NHTSA has rightfully been criticized by US Senators and safety advocates in the wake of these serious defects and a record year for recalls. Many inquiries have centered around the fact that the data to detect the recalls was present for years, but regulators instead deferred to the companies they were regulating and failed to ask the questions that would have allowed them to connect the dots. Thus, some have pointed to the Early Warning Reporting (EWR) system and its failure to catch both the ignition switch defect and the exploding air bag defect.
However new NHTSA administrator, Mark Rosekind, has vowed to improve the agency’s performance. He has vowed that the agency will get tougher with automakers who flout the rules and endanger consumer safety. Last week’s $70 million fine imposed by NHTSA on Honda for its failures to provide more than 1,700 instances for EWR data may be the first sign of the agency’s revamped approach. Mr. Rosekind has also promised to consider regulations that would require automakers to improve upon the current 70 percent repair rate for recalled vehicles by mandating that automakers fix all vehicles. Mr Rosekind also acknowledged that while the agency currently lacks both manpower and the expertise to investigate certain areas, changes will come in 2015. According to Mr. Rosekind, “It’s only been a week, but we’re already focused on [how] the agency is incredibly under-resourced. I [got] here and [realized] that it’s much worse than any of us have really understood before.”
Let Arkansas Defective Product Injury Lawyer Ken Kieklak Fight for You
If you have been seriously injured or if a loved one has been killed due to a defect in a car, truck or SUV you may be entitled to compensation. However, all claims for personal injury in Arkansas are limited by time. Therefore, if you believe you have a claim you should contact an experienced Fayetteville defective product lawyer without delay. To discuss your legal options confidentially, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online today for a free consultation.
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