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Archive for the category: Auto Defect
  • General Motors Has Set A New Precedence For Auto Recalls This Year

    General Motors (GM) has set a new precedence for auto recalls this year, as the first cavalcade of auto recalls quickly turned the safety notices into background noise ignored by many of the effected car owners. GM started the avalanche on February 2014, when they announced that they had to fix a fatally flawed ignition switch on some of their small cars. That was quickly expanded twice and now numbers 2.6 million cars worldwide. The defect is linked to 13 deaths and 54 accidents. Hoping to clean house and avoid more government fines for recall foot-dragging, GM has announced 38 recalls this year through June, covering 14.4 million U.S. vehicles. GM alone will far exceed the past decade’s annual auto industry average of 21 million cars and light trucks. GM’s stepped-up recall pace could continue into midsummer, said GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In the past month, GM had announced four more recalls, with the largest for 464,712 Chevrolet Camaros. The Camaro ignition key can be bumped out of position, a problem linked to three crashes and four minor injuries. Meanwhile, other automakers are clearing their cupboards of safety-related issues to stay out of the sights of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is promising tougher oversight to prevent a repeat of GM’s 13-year dawdling before the switch was recalled. So far this year, other auto manufacturers have announced 47 recalls, covering 8.54 million U.S. vehicles, according to government records. That’s a lot, even though it seems otherwise when contrasted with GM’s overwhelming numbers. The millions of recalls that have been issued this year made the situation worse and owner response rates even lower. The typical consumer reaction seems to be, “My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?” The fact is, car owners should be bothered, but getting them to grasp that fact is a bit like trying to push a piece of string. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that about 75% of recalled vehicles eventually get fixed, depending upon the value and age of the vehicle, how serious the problem seems and how likely the owner thinks that the issue might effect their vehicle. The agency believes toning down recall commotion would hurt, not help; safety is their number one concern and they want to increase and improve ways to reach consumers, not limit the number of recalls. It’s easy to see[READ MORE…]

  • Vehicular Homicide

    Several states have laws referred to as an assault by auto or vehicular homicide as it is considered in Illinois. As the driver of a truck, there is a lot of responsibility; the greatest concern is safety and keeping fatigued drivers off the highway and freeways. There are regulations for when and how long a driver may drive. You don’t know when an accident can occur; recently a tractor-trailer rammed into a limousine bus, because the driver dozed off, setting off a chain-reaction crash. The truck driver was charged with death by auto in the crash that killed a man; two people were seriously injured and flown from the accident scene to a local hospital, where they were left in critical condition. If a driver unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification, they commit Involuntary Manslaughter; if their acts, whether lawful or unlawful, cause the death, are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and it is performed recklessly, it is considered to be Reckless Homicide. A person commits Reckless Homicide if he or she unintentionally kills an individual while driving a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.  Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide are each considered to be a Class 3 felony. In cases involving Reckless Homicide in which the defendant drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne and caused the deaths of 2 or more persons as part of a single course of conduct, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. In cases involving Involuntary Manslaughter or Reckless Homicide resulting in the death of a police officer being killed while on the job as an officer, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. Reckless Homicide includes cases in which the defendant unintentionally kills an individual while driving in a posted school zone, while children are present or in a construction or maintenance zone. According to the Illinois Vehicle Code, when construction or maintenance workers are present, that fact may infer that the defendant’s actions were performed recklessly especially where he or she was also either driving at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit or violating Section 11-501 of[READ MORE…]

  • Illinois Court Addresses Expert Testimony in Auto Defect Case

    Is the plaintiff required to offer expert testimony in an Illinois automobile products liability design defect case? In a recent case from the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, the plaintiffs asserted that expert testimony was not required to prove their claim that a 1993 Ford Explorer  was defectively designed and overturned easily because the vehicle’s design was unstable. In that case, Show v. Ford Motor Company, Nos. 10–2428, 10–2637, the Illinois plaintiffs were injured when the Ford Explorer that they were traveling in overturned after being involved in a traffic collision that occurred at while the vehicle was traveling at low speeds. The Court noted that there were two methods of proof available to plaintiff’s in a design defect case: 1) the consumer-expectations test and 2) the risk-utility or risk-benefit test. After analyzing relevant Illinois case law, the Court concluded that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ claims, in order to prevail on their design defect claim under the consumer-expectations approach, the plaintiffs were required to present expert evidence that the Ford Explorer failed to perform up to the safety expectations of an ordinary consumer. The Court explained that regardless of the method of proof pursued by the plaintiff, expert testimony was required: If, as plaintiffs concede, it takes expert evidence to establish a complex product’s unreasonable dangerousness through a risk-utility approach, it also takes expert evidence to establish a complex product’s unreasonable dangerousness through a consumer-expectations approach…Because consumer expectations are just one factor in the inquiry whether a product is unreasonably dangerous, a jury unassisted by expert testimony would have to rely on speculation…Design-defect litigation under Illinois law requires many additional questions to be resolved; consumers’ expectations are just factors “included within the scope of the broader risk-utility test” (231 Ill.2d at 555, 327 Ill.Dec. 1, 901 N.E.2d 329); and the absence of expert evidence on these additional subjects, some of which we have mentioned, is fatal to plaintiffs’ suit. In other words, the bottom line for plaintiff’s attorneys in an Illinois product liability design defect case is that it’s always a good idea to produce an expert to prove your case.And, the failure to do so could result in the dismissal of your client’s case. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Ford’s Recall of Trucks with Defective Fuel Tank

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on July 29, 2011 that Ford is recalling 1.1 million pickup trucks due to defective fuel tanks.  Reports have indicated that prolonged exposure to road deicing chemicals may cause severe corrosion of the fuel tank straps that secure the tank to the vehicle, allowing the fuel lines to separate from the tank and, in some cases, causing the tank to contact the ground, which poses a fire hazard. Ford will soon begin notifying the owners of vehicles affected by the recall, instructing them to take their vehicles to a Ford or Lincoln dealer where the fuel tank straps will be replaced with straps that have increased corrosion protection.  If replacement straps are not available, the dealer may install a cable support under the strap as an interim repair until a replacement strap is available or install a steel reinforcement over the existing strap as a permanent repair.  The fuel tank strap repair will be performed free of charge. Which Ford Trucks Are Affected By the Recall? The recall involves the following Ford vehicles: Certain Ford F-150s for model years 1997 to 2003 2004 Ford F-150 Heritage Ford F-250 for model years 1997-1999 2003 Lincoln Blackwood vehicles manufactured between June 29, 1995 and August 4, 2004 What Is the Status of Other Ford Vehicle Defects? A circuit court judge in Florida recently set aside the decision of a jury finding that Ford was not liable for damages and injuries caused by the sudden acceleration of its Aerostar van.  Judge Swigert found that Ford’s misconduct had amounted to “a “fundamental error” that had deprived plaintiffs of a fair trial and ordered a new trial on the issues of compensatory and punitive damages.  Judge Swigert’s opinion found “clear and convincing evidence” that Ford had engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and other misconduct that justified setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Ford and issuing a new verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs.  For more information on the decision in Stimpson v. Ford, see our recent blog post. Ford also recently recalled more than 26,000 vehicles, as well as service parts shipped to dealers for the affected vehicles, due to a risk that the multi-function switch can become deformed and prevent the turn signal, tail lights, hazard warning flashers and brake lights from activating, which could in turn increase the risk of a collision.  The recall[READ MORE…]

  • Stimpson v. Ford: Judge Orders New Trial Based on Ford’s Misconduct at Trial

      A circuit court judge in Florida recently set aside a jury verdict in favor of Ford Motor Co., finding that Ford’s misconduct had amounted to “a “fundamental error” that deprived plaintiffs of a fair trial and justified a new trial.  The lawsuit alleged that plaintiffs’ Aerostar van suddenly accelerated during gear engagement and traveled more than 100 feet before hitting a utility pole, causing disabling injuries to plaintiff Peggy Stimpson.  Plaintiffs asserted liability by Ford based on strict liability, negligence and punitive damages for fraudulent concealment of a defect.  Ford denied the allegations and, following a four-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in Ford’s favor. Plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing requesting that the court vacate the judgment and order a new trial.  At the heart of the plaintiffs’ appeal was whether or not Ford had repeatedly used fraudulent tactics to conceal the truth about risks associated with electromagnetic interference with the cruise control function of vehicle, which has caused numerous injuries and deaths. Judge Swigert’s opinion harshly criticized Ford Motor Co. and found that that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Ford had engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and other misconduct that justified setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Ford and issuing a new verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs.  Specifically, Judge Swigert found that Ford Motor Co. had engaged in the following misconduct: (1)   Ford had destroyed Service Investigation Reports within one year even though they were required by federal law to retain the reports for 5 years and had concealed years of research and evidence dating back to the 1970s that indicated a possible electromagnetic interference problem that could cause sudden acceleration – information which, if disclosed, would have allowed the federal government to become aware of the electronic defects with the cruise control function that can cause sudden acceleration problem sooner. (2)   Ford made false claims regarding its knowledge of the electronic defect and knew that the 1989 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report was based on false information. (3)   Despite its request to exclude testimony from an expert witness of the plaintiffs, Ford introduced the testimony on cross-examination and insinuated that plaintiffs’ counsel had concealed certain information. (4)   Ford had generally presented false and misleading testimony to the jury. Judge Swigert also reprimanded Ford’s attorney for insinuating that plaintiffs’ lawyer had concealed information by excluding the testimony of one of plaintiffs’[READ MORE…]

  • New California Rental Car Recall Bill First of its Kind

    In past posts, we’ve reported that rental car agencies regularly lease recalled cars without fixing the underlying safety issue behind the recall. There have been a number of attempts to fix this problem. First, in August of 2010, two consumer groups filed a joint petition with the FTC, asking that the FTC investigate the situation and require that Enterprise Rent-a-Car, one of the largest car rental agencies in the U.S., refrain from renting cars  that are subject to safety recalls  and have not yet been repaired. And then, in March of this year, Senator Charles Schumer introduced federal legislation that would require rental agencies to immediately remove from circulation all recalled cars. Once fixed, the cars would then be able to be rented again. Now, the State of California is taking a stab at remedying this troubling situation. As reported in this CBS San Francisco article, last week the California Assembly passed a bill aimed at reducing the number of recalled rental cars on the road: One house of the California Legislature on Thursday narrowly approved the nation’s first law to force rental car companies to pull vehicles off the road after a safety recall… The Assembly passed the bill Thursday on a 42-26 vote, one more than the simple majority needed. It now goes to the Senate. As has been the case elsewhere, rental car agencies strongly opposed the legislation. However, despite their disagreement with this bill, it simply makes sense to require rental car agencies to keep recalled cars off the road. Safety should always trump the convenience and profit of rental car agencies. Hopefully, this legislation and the other measures that we’ve discussed in the past will be passed, automobile accidents involving recalled rental cars will be prevented and lives will be saved. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com. Related articles NY bill would end leasing of rental cars in recall (seattletimes.nwsource.com) Calif. Assembly approves rental car recall bill (sfgate.com) Schumer Demands Fix to ‘Dangerous’ Rental Car Loophole (abcnews.go.com) Calif. bill targets rental cars subject to recalls (seattletimes.nwsource.com)

  • Are Children’s Car Seats Safe?

    According to recent reports, it’s unclear whether car seats are safe. Current testing methods for car seats are inadequate and based on insufficient test data. Nevertheless, despite questionable data, new standards are being issued. However, the reliability and accuracy of the new standards is remains to be seen. For example, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), the federal agency tasked with setting safety standards for automobiles, doesn’t test children’s car seats for side impact crashes, nor does it set standards for car seats made for children who weigh over 65 pounds. According to this Washington Post article, the reason for this testing failure is due to difficulties in developing life-like child dummies for testing: That’s because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to develop a lifelike child crash test dummy that can accurately ensure that seats for heavier children provide the protections promised. Problems with developing child dummies are also a key reason why seats for all children have no federal requirements for effectiveness in side-impact, rear-end and rollover collisions, car seat experts said. However, despite the NHSTA’s inability to test child seats, it just issued new child car seat safety guidelines, as reported in this WTAE.com article: The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have released new guidelines for car seats. The groups now say children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old. The new guidelines also state that some kids should ride in booster seats until they are as tall as 4 feet 9 inches, 12 years old, or the lap-belt fits them. The uncertainties regarding appropriate recommendations and the insufficient guidelines issued based on guesses and estimations are simply insufficient.  Ensuring the safety of our children and protecting them in the event of an automobile accident should be one of the NHSTA’s top priorities. Let’s hope that the testing of car seats improves in the very near future. The current state of testing is nothing short of shameful. Our children, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, deserve better. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com. Related articles New guidelines: Kids safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2 (charlotte.news14.com) Babies are safest in rear-facing car seats until age of two, safety experts say[READ MORE…]

  • Malfunctioning Car Seat Heaters Can Pose a Serious Threat

    Malfunctioning car seat heaters are an increasing problem, especially for paralyzed individuals. People with limited or no feeling in their lower extremities can unknowingly suffer severe burns when car seat heaters overheat. For these people, this issue is a matter of serious concern. As reported in this USA Today article, a 2003 study highlighted the need for tighter controls and regulation of car seat heaters and the risks posed when these devices malfunction: Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, says 105 degrees is the maximum temperature a seat should ever reach. Greenhalgh, co-author of a 2003 study on the issue, has treated a patient who received third-degree burns after 20 minutes in a car seat where the heater reached 120 degrees in one spot. Medical literature shows these burns can occur within 10 minutes at 120 degrees. In part because of the concerns raised by Greenhalgh, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to review the issue and determine if any actions need to be taken in regard to car seat heaters: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday that it will analyze its data to see how widespread the problem of burns from car seat heaters is and whether heaters that can burn people pose “an unreasonable risk to safety.” In the meantime, in order to avoid serious injuries, it is recommended that people with lower-body sensory deficits disconnect the heaters. Additionally, automobile manufacturers are being asked to consider setting a maximum temperature for heaters and install timers that automatically turn them off, steps that some automakers have already taken. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com. Related articles Car seat heaters become safety target (usatoday.com) Hot Cross Buns: NHTSA reportedly set to investigate seat heater burns (autoblog.com)

  • Motor Vehicle Safety Act May Be Closer to Implementation

    Chicago Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney Illinois Personal Injury Attorney The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 was introduced in May 2010 following a series of Toyota recalls caused by an unintended acceleration defect.  The bill is designed to improve vehicle safety standards in order protect drivers, enhance the oversight authority and resources of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and increased manufacturer accountability. Improved Safety Standards The bill includes the following provisions designed to improve vehicle safety standards: Stopping Distance and Brake Override Functionality – Every car would be required to stop within a certain distance and include a brake override feature. Pedal Placement– Minimum distances between floor pedals, between foot pedals and the vehicle floor, and between any other obstacles to pedal movement would be required. Electronic Systems Performance–Passenger vehicles would be required to meet minimum performance standards for electronic systems (currently there are no such standards). Keyless Ignition Systems–A standard would be created by the NHTSA to require that a vehicle could be brought under control by using a keyless ignition system. Vehicle Event Data Recorders (EDRs) – Manufacturers would be required to install EDRs in all new vehicles to record crash data at least 60 seconds prior to and 15 seconds after a vehicle crash and airbag deployment. Transmission Configuration Standard – Manufacturers would be required to accurately label gear shifting controls and utilize a practical placement for such controls. Enhanced Safety Authority The bill also contained certain provisions intended to strengthen the NHTSA’s ability to oversee auto manufacturers and take immediate action to remove unsafe vehicles from the market, including: Increased Civil Penalties – Civil penalties for automakers that intentionally fail to report safety defects or provide misleading information to the NHTSA would be increased to $25,000 per vehicle from its current penalty of $5,000 per vehicle. Imminent Hazard Authority – NHTSA would have authority to prevent further sales of a vehicle if an auto defect is deemed to create an imminent hazard that could lead to death and serious injuries. Increased Accountability The bill also included a number of provisions designed to keep consumers informed of safety defects and upgrades, including: Improved Early Warning Reporting System – NHTSA’s early warning system would be modernized to allow consumers to more easily use and understand the online database of vehicle defect reports. Vehicle Defect Reporting – Manufacturers would be required to place a sticker or other[READ MORE…]

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