The New York Journal reported in July 2014 that a Texas based lawyer filed a claim for compensation against General Motors on behalf of 658 people killed or injured as a result of defective ignition switches.
In February of the same year, General Motors issued a recall of 800,000 small cars due to a fault in the ignition switch which it was discovered could cause the engine of the vehicle to shut down and prevent airbags from inflating during an accident. The recall of cars exceeded 29 million and frighteningly, it is alleged that the company knew about the defective switches as early as 2001.
For those of us who drive a car, this makes for worrying reading. How many other incidences of defects in cars have resulted in death or injury to unsuspecting motorists? And is there any way a person can protect themselves against buying a car that has a defect?
Past Recalls and Defects
General Motors (GM) has faced controversy over defective parts in their motor vehicles in the past. Back in 1973 GM designed a Chevrolet with a 20-gallon fuel tank on either side of the pickup truck. It was soon discovered that if the fuel tanks took a direct hit in a collision they could explode on impact. Since 1973 more than 2000 people have died due to this serious flaw. Many more have suffered disfiguring burns, and the company has paid out over US$500 million in compensation to victims. GM refused to enact a voluntary recall on the affected vehicles, however, the company reached a settlement with the Department of Transport by agreeing to pay $US51 million to fund transport safety initiatives.
In March 2014 Toyota was forced to pay a fine of $US1.2 billion for deliberately misleading consumers by continuing to install faulty motor vehicle parts in new cars which the company knew could cause injury or even death. The faults centred on the inadvertent sticking of the acceleration pedal and a floor mat which could entrap the acceleration pedal causing unintended acceleration. The faults resulted in catastrophic accidents which caused several deaths and injuries. Between 2009-2011 around nine million cars were recalled and multiple class action lawsuits for personal injury and wrongful death have been filed in the United States.
Even the luxury cars’ market has not escaped the nightmare of having to recall vehicles due to defective parts. In February 2014 Aston Martin was forced to recall over 17,000 vehicles after it was discovered that a Chinese sub-supplier may have used a defective plastic material which could cause the pedal arm of the accelerator to come apart. Thankfully there have been no reports of any accidents related to the defect to date.
More recently, in 2016/17, cars manufactured by 19 different automakers have been or are being recalled to have their frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side replaced. The airbags, made by Japanese owned company Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015. There is a risk the airbags could deploy explosively, injuring, or even killing car occupants. So far 16 deaths and 120 injuries around the world have been attributed to the defective airbags. Takata has pleaded guilty to criminal wrongdoing and will pay a $1 billion fine.
How To Protect Yourself Against a Defective Motor Vehicle
Unfortunately, if a defect is caused directly by the manufacturer there is little you can do. Car manufacturers are required to notify affected consumers by letter if a particular model is being recalled and will organise the repair of the defect free of charge.
You can also check online if a vehicle has been recalled.
When purchasing a new car, it is always best to have it checked over by a qualified mechanic. Ensure that you take it for a test drive and ask to see previous MOT and service documentation.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you believe the accident was caused by a defect within that vehicle,you may be able to claim compensation. You will need to prove that the defect was caused by a negligent act or omission by the car manufacturer.
By instructing an experienced personal injury law solicitor, you can be confident that your claim has a strong chance of success.
Judging by past behaviour, large automobile manufacturers are often aware of defects long before they inform the public, at the cost of many lives. By suing for compensation, not only will you be able to fund the cost of any rehabilitation or home modification needed to support you following your accident, but you are also helping to bring these organisations to account and may prevent the same tragedy occurring in the future.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have been injured because of a defective car product and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our online Free QuickClaim Enquiry.
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