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.
One large area of product liability law involves poorly designed or assembled automobiles and components. We see it often enough where a manufacturer realizes a problem and alerts the proper government agency (usually the NHTSA) of a potentially injurious defect on a car or truck. One such instance involves a safety recall by General Motors related to more than 40,000 of that company’s passenger cars and crossover vehicles for a problem related to the vehicles’ fuel system.
According to news reports, ’07-‘09 Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models, as well as ‘07 Saturn Ion, Chevy Equinox and Pontiac Torrent models have all been recalled in a number of hot-weather states. Based on a letter filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM stated that high temperatures could cause a component related to the vehicle’s fuel-pump to crack and thus allow for a potential fuel leak.
The recall warning was directed specifically at owners of vehicles sold or registered in hot-weather states, but even so the recall apparently covers all of those models listed as it is conceivable that vehicles in comparatively mild climates could eventually find themselves in hot-weather states. This could be especially true of vehicles belonging to recent retirees who may be moving from a northern tier state to a state such as Arizona or Nevada.
According to news reports, GM stated that there were no “statistically significant number of incidents” involving fuel leaks outside of the states identified (the states included, depending on the vehicle model, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas). GM will be offering ”special coverage” to those owners outside of the named states, which would entitle them to free repair of the problem component for up to 10 years from the date the vehicle was placed in service or 120,000 miles (models include ‘06-‘09 Cobalt and G5; ‘06-‘07 Ion; and ‘07-‘09 Equinox and Torrent.
The discrepancy in the model years might be traced back to a 2009 recall that included more than 50,000 Chevy Cobalts, Saturn Ions and Pontiac G5s due to a leaky fuel pump. That particular recall included ‘06 Cobalts and Ions in Arizona and Nevada, as well as ‘07 Cobalts, Ions and G5s in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas.
While the variation among affected geographic areas and models is based on GM’s warranty claims related to fuel pump leak rates, owners of these vehicles regardless of where they live should contact their local dealer for help. According to reports, GM’s offer of special coverage effectively extends the vehicle’s warranty for this particular problem. While not a recall, the special coverage allows for free replacement of the fuel pump only if it is found to be leaking or if there the smell of gasoline can be detected.
General Motors Recalls 41,000 Cars and Crossovers for Fuel Leak, NYTimes.com, October 1, 2012