Dangerous and defective cars could be on the road thanks to the recent government shutdown. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plays a critical role in ensuring that the cars that are on Los Angeles roads are safe. However, the agency recently revealed that it was unable to investigate safety complaints or enforce recalls for the 35 days the government was closed.
NHTSA Investigates Safety Complaints
Every year, the NHTSA receives between 100,000 and 150,000 safety complaints from drivers across the country. Employees at the agency investigate these complaints to identify potential safety issues and/or defective products that could pose a threat to the public.
During the shutdown, drivers submitted thousands of complaints to the NHTSA. Since 331 employees were furloughed, essentially none of these safety issues were investigated. Complaints have continued to pour in since the government re-opened. As a result, the NHTSA is still behind in assessing these claims.
Consumer safety experts say that we are fortunate that there were no major accidents linked to recalled vehicles while the NHTSA was unable to do its job. However, the government is set to run out of funding once again in just a few short days. If there’s another shutdown, the chances of a “travesty” involving a defective vehicle or auto part are much greater.
Don’t Vehicle Manufacturers Issue Their Own Recalls?
Yes, manufacturers can issue their own recalls when they learn about a potential safety issue with one of their vehicles. However, companies are in business to make a profit. Issuing a recall cuts into those profits. The NHTSA not only encourages recalls but also makes sure that companies are diligent in conducting reviews and looking objectively at safety issues.
During the shutdown, the NHTSA isn’t there to oversee investigations and recalls. Car manufacturers are solely responsible for the safety of consumers who may be driving defective vehicles. In January, many safety groups asked Hyundai and Kia to recall 3 million cars. The requests were made based on an NHTSA investigation that determined the engines in these vehicles may spontaneously catch on fire. The manufacturers, not under pressure by the out-of-operation NHTSA, declined these repeated requests. Instead, only 168,000 vehicles have been recalled.
Can a Manufacturer Be Liable for Defective Products?
Yes. The NHTSA isn’t the only reason that car manufacturers issue safety recalls. Under California law, manufacturers can be liable for injuries that are caused by defective products. The fact that a company could be liable for harm caused by its products is intended to encourage safety checks, investigations, and recalls.
How Can I Sue a Car Manufacturer If I’ve Been Injured?
Car manufacturers can be strictly liable for harm caused by defective products. Strict liability means that you don’t have to prove that the company was negligent, or that they conclusively knew the product was defective. Instead, you simply have to prove that you have suffered harm because of an unreasonably unsafe product that was designed, manufactured, or sold by the company.
There are three primary types of product liability cases: design defect, manufacturing defect, and marketing defect.
Design Defect: The product is dangerous because of an issue with its design. The defect will exist even when care is used in putting the product together during the manufacturing stage. For example, a design defect may exist if the design for an airbag calls for materials that are likely to explode if exposed to high temperatures.
Manufacturing Defect: The product is dangerous because it was not manufactured according to its design. A manufacturing defect can affect a single product or an entire line of products. For example, a manufacturing defect may exist if the company uses the wrong measurements when constructing a rollover bar.
Marketing Defect: The product is unreasonably dangerous and the company failed to provide warnings to keep consumers safe. This is why so many products are outfitted with warning labels and stickers. For example, a marketing defect may exist if a company knew that seatbelts could potentially harm passengers who were not under 50 inches in height, but failed to warn consumers of that risk.
A recall doesn’t have to be issued to give you the right to sue a car manufacturer for your injuries. If you’ve been hurt, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Los Angeles product liability attorney. Call Citywide Law Group for immediate legal assistance.