Articles Posted in Vehicle Safety Recalls

If you thought that being injured in an automobile-related accident required you to be hit by another passenger car or large commercial truck, think again. A percentage of all the auto-related personal injuries that take place every year occur when no second vehicle is present, or certainly when no serious collision has happened. With the typical experience of seeing a pair of cars on the shoulder of an expressway or rural route many people can be forgiven when the first thing that comes to mind regarding traffic wrecks is car-to-car collisions. While these may be some of the more common ways in which people are injured or killed in their vehicle, they are not the only ones.

Consider that many people are still hurt by getting their hand caught in a closing car door, or when an individual receives a head wound, such as a deep gash or scalp injury thanks to a week hatchback strut that gives way at an inopportune time. Dozens upon dozens of people — drivers, passengers and bystanders alike — receive severe and sometimes life-threatening first- and second-degree burns when a car, minivan or SUV suddenly catches fire due to a defective component or design flaw. Of course, numerous car fires actually take place following a bad highway collision, but some of these fires actually take place when a vehicle is standing still, maybe not even running.

As Maryland car, truck and motorcycle accident attorneys, we know of instances where innocent victims have been injured or killed as a result of another party’s negligent behavior. In the case of spontaneous car fires, the blame for sudden and unexpected conflagrations can be the result of poorly designed automotive components, or badly maintained or serviced automobile components. Whatever the cause, when negligence is suspected, the victims should consult a qualified personal injury lawyer.

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Taking into account that tens of thousands of people are injured in minor to severe passenger car and trucking-related traffic accidents every year, it’s easy to forget that many other individuals — drivers and passengers alike — are hurt, maimed or killed as a result of defective automotive components, or failure of items such as tires, hoses, fasteners, wiring and other small, yet critical vehicle parts. While often not occurring as dramatically as a high-speed car, truck or motorcycle crash, an equipment failure or malfunction in a car or truck can place a vehicle’s occupants or bystanders in jeopardy, depending on the circumstances.

One of the more deadly and consequently more frightening occurrences is that of a car fire caused not by roadway collision, but by some other non-crash event. Both drivers and passengers, adults and children have been injured or killed by a vehicle fire sparked by some unseen problem deep inside the engine compartment or hidden within the car’s structure. Burns from a motor vehicle fire can range from minor to life-threatening, depending on the severity of the blaze and the relative luck of the victims involved in the event.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, my firm understands the shock and anger that plaintiffs in product liability suits can feel, especially when as consumers we all expect the products we buy to be free of serious or even lethal defects. From faulty children’s toys to defective medical appliances, there exist a variety of potential sources of physical injury throughout the world. As experienced injury attorneys, I and my colleagues work to help victims recover the cost of medical treatment, as well as punitive damages for pain and suffering of family members who have been injured or who died unexpectedly due to a company’s failure to build a safe product.

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While most people likely think of car, truck and motorcycle collisions as the typical way that occupants of passenger vehicle become injured, there are numerous other scenarios in which people can be seriously hurt or even killed in an automobile-related accident. Auto-pedestrian collisions are one such way, as well as bicycle accidents and commercial delivery truck wrecks.

As personal injury lawyers serving the people of Maryland and Washington, D.C., our firm has the skills and training to represent individuals hurt or injured as the result of a negligent or thoughtless action of another person or persons. We understand how a momentary error in judgment or a deliberate action can cause the victim(s) of a passenger car or trucking accident weeks, months or years of pain and suffering. For those who have lost a loved one through a senseless traffic accident, we also handle wrongful death lawsuits.

As mentioned earlier, while nearly everyone would consider car accidents as the most common cause of injuries or death to innocent persons, there are other events or circumstances that can result in bodily injury or fatalities. Defective products are one area of injury law that can cause a great deal of injury, death and emotional suffering. In the case of automobile, serious roadway accidents can occur as a result of a faulty vehicle component or part, especially when the defect is related to the vehicle’s safety systems.

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It doesn’t take much to turn a safe vehicle into a dangerous machine. While general neglect, poor maintenance and faulty service procedures can take their toll on the mechanical systems of cars and trucks, improper engineering design or production processes on the part of auto manufacturers can put a vehicle at a disadvantage almost from the get-go. As consumers, we all assume that the products we buy, especially those that we trust our lives to and that of our families, will be designed and built to the highest possible standards. Safety recalls represent the flip side of the argument.

Here in the Baltimore area, as with Annapolis, Gaithersburg, Rockville and The District, tens of thousands of drivers get behind the wheel of vehicles every day in the belief that those cars, trucks and motorcycles are safe and sound. When a traffic accident occurs as a result of a mechanical defect, the victims would be wise to consider speaking to a qualified personal injury attorney about the possibility of a products liability lawsuit.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my colleagues understand how an assumption of safety can be rocked by a dangerous oversight on the part of a manufacturer. While some recalls are voluntary, others are ordered by the Government in the interest of public safety. If injuries or traffic fatalities are caused as a result of a possible vehicle defect, the call for action is usually swift.

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Years after a terrible automobile accident on the West Coast, auto safety advocates and traffic safety experts are starting to push hard for federal regulation of rental cars and the companies that rent vehicles to the public. According to various news articles and other media outlets, this latest drive stems from a 2004 car crash that resulted in the death of two sisters who were killed when their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser had a mechanical problem, which led to a collision with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig.

That crash eventually led to a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Enterprise Rent-A-Car by the mother of the two women, 24-year-old Raechel Houck and her 20-year-old sister, Jacqueline. According to court records, the vehicle the two rented on that fateful day was part of a recall campaign involving the car’s defective power-steering system; however, at that time the rental company had yet to make any repairs to the car.

As a matter of fact, those two women were not the first to have rented the vehicle while it was under the recall order. Based on reports, Enterprise had rented the vehicle to three prior customers following the recall notice being issued. The resulting failure of one of the steering components precipitated the eventual crash that killed the two young women.

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It is understood that mechanical defects and product manufacturing errors can adversely affect the safe operation of motor vehicles by causing a potential failure mode in safety-related automotive components and systems. As personal injury lawyers here in Maryland, I and my staff know very well the possible consequences that a critical component failure can have at highway speeds or in densely-packed traffic conditions.

Whether an accident occurs on an expressway or a city street, chances are that someone may be injured or killed as a result. While some accidents are caused mainly be driver error or negligence, other car and trucking-related wrecks are a result of a broken part or component. When something fails in a motor vehicle’s steering or braking system, suspension or tires, the driver can be caught unaware and lose control of the motorcycle, car or tractor-trailer rig.

Problems with a car or truck’s throttle controls can also cause and accident, such as the well-known Audi 5000 many years ago. In cases such as these, victims typically complain of an uncontrolled or sudden acceleration condition in which the driver of the vehicle finds it either difficult or nearly impossible to stop the car. Last year, similar sudden acceleration complaints began to occur with certain Toyota models. The source of the trouble, if any, was next to impossible to figure out.

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Over the years, the American consumer has come to expect a fairly high standard of quality in the products he or she buys. Part and parcel with this is the understanding — and in many cases explicit promises — that certain products will be safe at the time of purchase and continue to remain safe for the reasonable life of that product. This is important, because when something large like a home furnace system or automobile malfunctions, there is always a possibility of bodily injury or death.

This is why, over the years, government agencies and other consumer watchdog groups have helped to influence the safety of all kinds of products. From low-tech, yet ubiquitous hand tools to slightly more complex home appliances, all the way up to car, trucks and commercial jet aircraft. As mentioned above, each one of us has come to expect a certain level of safety when operating, riding or even being near potentially dangerous machinery.

In the area of automotive safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is one government agency that is heard from on a fairly regular basis, especially in regard to vehicle safety recalls and other transportation safety issues. Car and truck recalls are sometimes issued voluntarily by auto makers themselves and sometimes ordered by the federal government in a effort to protect the public from injury or death due to a faulty automotive component or part.

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As Maryland auto injury attorneys serving individuals in cities such as Baltimore, Cumberland and Frederick, MD, as well as Washington, D.C., I and my colleagues look forward to a day when serious injuries and deaths from traffic-related accidents are a thing of the past. While that day may be well off, constant improvements in vehicle design and constantly evolving government safety regulations indicate some progress.

Because tens of thousands of people are killed on this nation’s roadways every year, there is always room for improvement. The cost from traumatic brain and spinal injuries sustained during a car crash can be astronomical for a family of limited means. Not only is medical care expensive, the cost to a family when one of the primary wage earners is laid up for an extended period can be financially devastating.

Protecting the occupants of a motor vehicle that is involved in a traffic collision on an expressway, country road or city street is the job of that motor vehicle’s passenger restraint system, as well as other safety components located throughout the car or truck. Granted, there’s a big difference in the protection offered by a car, SUV or minivan than what is provided to a motorcyclist involved in a similar road accident, but those occupants in a passenger car are still at risk nonetheless.

Recent changes in the 5-star safety ratings set fourth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may help to increase the level of protection that motor vehicle passengers can expect in the future. According to news reports,

Starting with 2011 models, new vehicle crash tests will likely make drivers and passengers alike feel safer and more secure when traveling in new cars. Based on reports, the new crash evaluation criteria include an enhanced 5-Star Safety Ratings System for new vehicles. The new testing now includes a side pole crash test and evaluation of in-vehicle crash prevention technologies. The latest criteria also marks the first use of female crash test dummies are to be used in crash scenarios.

As in the past, vehicles are rated from on a scale of one to five stars (one being lowest and five the highest). Under the old NHTSA guidelines, many vehicles received the maximum, 5-star rating, however that will likely change with the new system now in place. This is reportedly because the new standards are much more strict. In fact, many previous 5-star rated vehicles are likely to drop in the rankings under the new system.

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Defective automotive equipment can be just as deadly as a drunken driver when it comes to traffic accidents and fatalities on Maryland roadways. As a Baltimore car accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I understand how poorly designed or maintained safety systems on cars, trucks and commercial motor vehicles can result in catastrophic roadway crashes leading to injuries and possible death.

Both the vehicle manufacturers and the maintenance facilities for those vehicles must do their part to ensure that all systems work as designed. Defective equipment can ihis include braking systems, steering components, lights and seatbelts, among others. If any system fails to work properly it could cause an accident or make any future accident more dangerous for the occupants, not to mention those motorists in the vicinity of a serious crash.

According to news articles, a law suit against the Japanese auto maker, Toyota, claims that the company knew as far back as 2003 about the possible acceleration risk on some of its vehicles. Based on reports, a Toyota technician stated in 2003 that sudden acceleration is an “extremely dangerous problem.” This was a full six years prior to the first of many recalls that the company has had to issue.

Residents of Maryland and other cold-weather states may find that they have a problem with that aging Ford minivan in the driveway. According to news reports, Ford Motor Company has issued a statement naming the Ford Windstar in a recall involving more than one-half million vehicles across several model years.

As a Baltimore auto accident attorney and Washington, D.C., injury lawyer, I understand the potential for injury resulting from a defective equipment problem in a motor vehicle or heavy commercial truck. Critical components found in such important vehicle systems such as the steering and suspension must operate correctly if a vehicle is to remain safe.

Whether a design error, incorrect material specification or maintenance issue, safety problems can lead to highway accidents, which may or may not involve injury or death to the occupants. According to the recent news reports, up to 575,000 Windstar minivans in the cold weather states could have a problem with their rear axle.

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