As we begin 2015, it is a good time to review some of the biggest automotive recalls and safety issues over the past 12 months.
The most publicized recall of 2014 was unquestionably the GM recall. Throughout the year, GM recalled over 30 million vehicles of all different makes and models. The most publicized defective part was a faulty ignition switch that the company knew about for years. The ignition switch was defective to the point of shutting off the car engine while the vehicle was in motion, causing drivers to lose control of the vehicle. This defect has been linked to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
Takata Air Bag Recall
As of December 2014, nearly 8 million air bags had been recalled from 10 separate auto manufacturers. The air bags, made by the Japanese corporation Takata, were discovered to eject tiny shreds of metal particles upon deploying during a car crash. Those particles were sharp enough and propelled with enough force to severely injure or kill multiple passengers. While the initial recall was limited to southern climates with high humidity (humidity was thought to be one of the causes of the defect), the recall was eventually expanded to other parts of the United States. According to the New York Times, Takata had been aware of the defects with its air bags since 2004.
The ET-Plus Trinity Guardrail has been installed on American highways for years as a way to supposedly help reduce fatalities and severe injuries in crashes. In older model guardrails, accident investigations showed that the end of the guardrail could pierce the vehicle if collided with head on. The ET-Plus and other models like it were supposed to spread the force of the impact over a larger surface area, allowing the guardrail to crumple back against the car rather than pierce it and injure passengers inside the cab.
Unfortunately, the ET-Plus was defectively designed. A University of Alabama-Birmingham study showed that the ET-Plus was actually causing fatalities and severe injuries at a much higher rate than its competitors. At issue was a modification that Trinity made to the guardrails without reporting it to the NHTSA. That modification – a one square inch reduction in the size of the guardrail's end terminal – was made purely to save on manufacturing costs. The cheaper guardrails do not meet the performance levels of the older designs. The unreported modification was the primary culprit for the increased number of fatalities and injuries involving the ET-Plus guardrails.
Several states have already ceased us of the ET-Plus Trinity Guardrail, while others appear primed to follow suit.
Trial Lawyers Expose Safety Problems
In many of the cases above and several other safety issues that were exposed in 2014, it is the trial lawyers that are the first to uncover the truths and bring them to the public and government's attention. The role of the American trial lawyer has always been as an advocate for the people. Through hard work, dedication, and a passion for helping others, America's trial lawyers have been responsible for revealing some of the biggest corporate cover ups in our nation's history – and making the country safer as a result.