When car accidents are caused by motor vehicle defects or recalled vehicles, injured victims can hold vehicle manufacturers liable for the damages that are sustained. In addition to filing a product liability lawsuit, victims should file complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Federal Safety Standards
To prevent car accidents and injuries, federal safety standards require all major parts of a vehicle to provide safe driving operation. Compliance with minimum performance and safety standards is required for all vehicle parts that have a significant impact on the vehicle’s safe operation such as steering, brakes, tires, and lighting. Safety standards also apply to vehicle safety equipment such as airbags, seat belts, child restraints, and motorcycle helmets.
If vehicles have defects that can impact safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires vehicle manufacturers to issue a recall. Safety defects are considered to be any problem with a motor vehicle or its equipment that creates a safety risk for drivers and passengers. Defects are often seen by a car accident lawyer in groups of vehicles of the same design, and/or equipment of the same type in different vehicles.
When safety defects are discovered, manufacturers are required to notify NHTSA, as well as vehicle dealers, distributors, and owners. Manufacturers are required to repair safety defects free of charge to vehicle owners, and NHTSA monitors such repairs to ensure that the vehicle is safe to drive. While some recalls are initiated voluntarily by vehicle manufacturers, others are court-ordered as a result of NHTSA accident investigations.
According to NHTSA accident reports, vehicle defects were responsible for approximately 44,000 car crashes in 2016. In recent years, numerous vehicle recalls have been related to defective airbags with faulty inflating mechanisms and cars and trucks with faulty steering systems. Since 2008, over 20 million vehicles with defective airbags have been recalled for problems with sensors that let airbags deploy without impact or fail to deploy at all in a car crash. Since 2014, over 800,000 trucks have been recalled due to defective power steering systems that lose power during operation. When electrical power fell below a certain point, power steering was suddenly disabled.
A car accident lawyer commonly sees serious accidents and injuries related to defective vehicle parts and equipment. While driver error is responsible for most car accidents, safety defects and recalled vehicles that have not been properly repaired account for more than $230 billion in medical costs for defect-related injuries every year.