Last month, our blog discussed the Department of Transportation's "Value of a Statistical Life." It's an economic shorthand for how much the average American is willing to pay for vehicle safety features. The DOT uses it for cost-benefit analysis when it's considering the worth of implementing a new safety law for vehicle manufacturers.
In essence, if the expense of a proposed safety law is higher than what Americans are willing to pay for that extra safety, then the law's cost outweighs its benefit.
It's a large-scale way of playing the odds—if the DOT knows only a small number of people will be affected or saved by a manufacturing change, they're not going to force manufacturers to implement the change. But to you and me, how "rare" our accident is doesn't matter to us. All that matters to us is that someone answers for what happened.
If we're the one-in-a-million case where our injuries were caused by a known manufacturing flaw, what can we do?
We can hold the company accountable in civil court.
Manufacturers Are Expecting a Few Lawsuits
Even if regulators chose not to force manufacturers to fix a known flaw, the company can still be made accountable for that flaw. For instance, let's say a particular car's brake system is too expensive for regulators to force a nationwide repair...but that same brake system caused the injury of just one person.
That one person can still file a lawsuit for a manufacturing defect in the car. Not only is it legal—manufacturers practically expect it.
See, while the DOT is doing its own calculations, car manufacturers are also calculating the cost of making voluntary repairs to their products. Using past case results, these companies calculate the cost of getting sued against the cost of repairing their design/manufacturing flaws.
If the cost of a few lawsuits is still less than the cost of a recall or a manufacturing change, then the company will choose the lawsuits.No matter if a few people or a dozen people get hurt, no matter how badly they're injured, car companies will choose the cost-effective option. Never mind that "cost-effective" here still results in someone's pain and loss.
The Only Way to Change Things? Make Every Lawsuit Hurt.
The only way to get manufacturers to change their mind about safety is to make it more expensive to let people keep getting hurt. That's how truck accident lawyers make the roads safer for everyone—the more expensive it is to be negligent, the less likely companies will hire reckless drivers or pressure drivers into breaking federal regulations.
As car companies face more lawsuits and verdicts of increasing size, they'll have to rethink their original risk assessment. Every lawsuit contributes to the total cost that car companies have to pay—and if they continue paying more than they calculated for, then they'll be forced to change their ways.
Our firms have seen this happen firsthand multiple times. We've secured enormous verdicts against large companies, and we've never failed to see how that verdict shaped their safety policy going forward. Our team was even involved with a nationwide recall that made student football players safer.
That's what we can do in every industry, for every individual whose injury was too "statistically rare" for the federal government to care or too "cheap" for the car manufacturers to care. Injury attorneys are the only advocates that care about individuals, which is why we can do what regulators can't: use individual stories to force manufacturers to change their ways.