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Failure to follow NHTSA rules can lead to liability

Automobile manufacturers are required by law to engage in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration refers to as "early warning reporting" to the federal government when they discover potentially fatal defects in their products. The requirement states that once they uncover such a defect, the company has no more than five business days within which to inform the NHTSA. The NHTSA then makes that information available to the public. But experience shows that both the auto makers and the NHTSA itself are often lax in complying with and enforcing this requirement.

Two recent examples help to illustrate the problem. In the well-known case in which General Motors sold cars with defective ignition switches, the failure of the company to comply with the five-day reporting requirement and its subsequent marketing of vehicles with those defective parts may have contributed to the 181 wrongful death lawsuits that the company has been subject to. In another case, Fiat-Chrysler has reached a settlement with the NHTSA requiring it to pay a $105 penalty for its failure to properly recall defective automobiles.

These cases have done more, however, than show that auto manufacturers are not always as diligent as they should be when it comes to complying with the reporting requirement. They have also revealed that the NHTSA can also be lax in ensuring compliance with it. This combination means that potentially dangerous and even lethal auto part defects can still find their way into the marketplace in Texas and nationwide and remain there for a considerable period of time before anyone takes action to remove them from use – and that interval has, and potentially can, lead to products liability-related personal injuries and deaths.

You may not always be able to rely on manufacturers to do the right thing in a timely manner when it comes to ensuring product safety, and you may not always be able to count on the government to be an effective watchdog to catch such instances of non-compliance with consumer safety regulations or to do anything about it right away when they do. If this leads to you or a loved one being injured in your person or property, then consulting with a personal injury attorney is an appropriate step to take to seek compensation for your loss.

Source: The Detroit News, "Senators urge NHTSA to speed early warning reforms," David Shepardson, August 27, 2015

Secondary Source: Yahoo! Finance, “General Motors Rejects 915 of Faulty Ignition Switch Claims,” August 25, 2015

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