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Accident & Injury Law

Call 24/7 877-GO WITH KEN (877.469.4845)

Passion. Commitment. Excellence.

Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen Law Group. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.

As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen Law Group is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.

phone (219)465-6292 fax (219)477-5181
1109 Glendale Boulevard Valparaiso, IN 46383

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Air Bag Recalls Just Keep Coming: Is Your Car Dangerous?

posted by kjalaw on Jun 25th, 2014 at 9:49 am

Here’s a list of popular vehicles driving on our roads today that have dangerous airbags in them and need to be taken in for repair. Remember this isn’t a complete list (because those recalls aren’t all done yet), so please check with recalls.gov to see if your make and model is subject to recall now:

  • BMW 3 Series
  • Dodge Charger – 2006
  • Ford GT – 2005-2006
  • Ford Mustang – 2005-2007
  • Ford Ranger – 2004
  • Honda Accord 2001-2007 (4 cylinder)
  • Honda Civic – 2001-2005
  • Honda CR-V – 2002-2006
  • Honda Odyssey – 2002-2004
  • Lexus SC 430 – 2002-2004
  • Mazda 6 – 2003-2007
  • Mazda RX-8 – 2004-2008
  • Nissan I30/I35 – 2001-2003
  • Nissan Maxima – 2001-2003
  • Nissan Pathfinder – 2001-2003
  • Toyota Corolla – 2003-2005
  • Toyota Matrix- 2003-2005
  • Toyota Sequoia- 2003-2005
  • Toyota Tundra- 2003-2005

What is Going On with U.S. Car Airbag Recalls?

One of the biggest manufacturers of air bags in the world, Takata Corporation, sells air bags along with other kinds of safety equipment, to major car makers all over the world. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda, in Takata’s Japan, as well as American car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors, are all customers of Takata.

For years now, millions of vehicles have been fitted with Takata air bags and sold in United States showrooms as well as in car markets all over the globe.

And they are seriously dangerous defective products.

These air bags explode — and to make matters worse, when they blow up, the air bags sent metal fragments out into the car’s interior at great force. For example, one single metal piece, a mere one inch in size, flew out of an exploding air bag in a Honda Civic and blinded the driver as well as cutting the driver’s face so badly that over 100 stitches were needed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating this massive air bag recall. For the latest NHTSA statement on its activities, go here.

 

Toyota Recall Gives Details

On June 11, 2014, Toyota issued a news release that it would be going back and sending a second notification to its customers of the need for repair of their front passenger airbags.

As Toyota explains:

The involved vehicles were equipped with front passenger airbag inflators which could have been assembled with improperly manufactured propellant. Improperly manufactured propellant could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash.

Approximately 766,300 vehicles in the US were covered by the 2013 recall, including vehicles that were previously inspected and already received a replacement inflator. This recall involves certain Model Year 2003-2004 Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, and Tundra; certain Model Year 2002-2004 Sequoia; and certain Model Year 2002-2004 Lexus SC 430 coupes.

Owners of vehicles subject to this safety recall will receive an owner notification letter by first class mail.

Detailed information is available to customers at www.toyota.com/recall, the Toyota Customer Experience at 1 800-331-4331, www.lexus.com/recall and Lexus Customer Satisfaction (1 800-255-3987).

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It is best if you check your vehicle at recalls.gov to see if your car or SUV has been recalled. Check even if your car isn’t on the list.

If it has, then you need to get the issue resolved as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a deployed air bag, then you may want to investigate whether or not that incident involved a vehicle now subject to recall – and if you have a defective product claim against the air bag manufacturer, the car maker, and others for an injury claim.


 

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2014 Click It or Ticket Campaign: Extra Police Patrols on Indiana Roads over Memorial Day to Fight Traffic Deaths

posted by kjalaw on May 22nd, 2014 at 7:47 am

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us — and once again, for the fifth straight year, the Indiana State Police as well as local law enforcement agencies are joining with the national campaign overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promote the use of seat belts through the “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

 

In Indiana “Click It or Ticket” has already started and will continue through June 1st; however, things will really get serious over the three-day national holiday weekend over the Memorial Day holiday. There will be special police patrols on Indiana roadways during this time period, and drivers will be pulled over if there is a suspicion that they are not following Indiana seat belt laws.

What are the Indiana Seat Belt Laws?

According to IC 9-19-10-2, Use of safety belt by motor vehicle occupants; safety belt standards:

Sec. 2. Each occupant of a motor vehicle equipped with a safety belt that:
(1) meets the standards stated in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208 (49 CFR 571.208); and
(2) is standard equipment installed by the manufacturer;
shall have a safety belt properly fastened about the occupant’s body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion.

And under IC 9-19-10-3.1 law enforcement has been authorized by the state legislature to stop vehicles to insure compliance with the seat belt law:

Sec. 3.1. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a vehicle may be stopped to determine compliance with this chapter. However, a vehicle, the contents of a vehicle, the driver of a vehicle, or a passenger in a vehicle may not be inspected, searched, or detained solely because of a violation of this chapter.
(b) A law enforcement agency may not use a safety belt checkpoint to detect and issue a citation for a person’s failure to comply with this chapter.

Why is Wearing a Seat Belt Important? Click It or Ticket Works

The reason that Indiana continues to embrace the “Click It or Ticket” campaign for major holidays like Memorial Day is because it has worked to save lives and reduce serious injury to both drivers and passengers who are in a crash. The odds of surviving a traffic accident increase by 50% if the person in the crash is wearing a seat belt, according to the latest studies.

 

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MAY 2014 IS MOTORCYCLE SAFETY AWARENESS MONTH

posted by kjalaw on May 9th, 2014 at 7:25 am

Federal studies reveal that more people are dying in motorcycle accidents than in years past — in fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics of highway accident deaths show that 15% of U.S. traffic fatalities in 2012 involved motorcyclists while a mere 3% of vehicle registrations in the United States are for motorcycles.

According to NHTSA, the risk of motorcyclists dying in a traffic accident is 26 TIMES HIGHER than someone who is involved in an accident and riding in a car.

 

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Accordingly, May 2014 has been heralded across the country as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The intent is not only to educate motorcyclists on staying safe on the roads, but also to increase public awareness of the need to respect motorcycles on the roads shared with drivers of cars, minivans, SUVs, and commercial vehicles.

“Motorcyclists will be out in force as the weather gets warmer, which is why May is the perfect month for Motorcycle Safety Awareness,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise. We all need to be more aware of motorcyclists in order to save lives and make sure we all ‘Share the Road’. ”

Indiana saw 151 Motorcycle Fatalities in 2012

The Indiana State Police report that Indiana suffered 151 motorcycle fatalities in 2012and that 122 of those accidents involved motorcyclists who had chosen not to wear a helmet.

Indiana troopers are particularly concerned that Hoosiers are aware of the specific dangers that road construction and uneven road surfaces can be for motorcyclists. This summer, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) warns that there will be lots of road construction and road repair in Indiana, and “edge traps” will be a big danger here in Indiana while this road work is happening. “Edge traps” involve uneven lanes on a road that is undergoing repair, and even a small discrepancy in the level of a driving surface can be extremely dangerous for someone driving along that surface on a motorcycle. It is very easy to lose control and crash a bike when a motorcycle gets caught in an edge trap.

Troopers offer the following safety tips for motorcyclists:

  1. Wear a DOT approved helmet and riding safety gear.
  2. Don’t consume alcohol while riding. During 2012, 36 motorcycle fatalities occurred in Indiana involving alcohol.
  3. Be visible. Ensure your headlight, taillight and brake light work properly.
  4. Wear high visibility clothing.
  5. Use lane positioning to increase visibility and watch for turning vehicles.
  6. Avoid riding in blind spots.

Here are a list of motorcyclist safety tips from NHTSA for those who share the roads with motorcycle riders:

  1. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
  2. Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  3. Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
  4. Always allow more follow distance – three to four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  5. Never drive distracted or impaired.
  6. Motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.

 

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APRIL IS NATIONAL DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH: VIOLENT VIDEOS SHOCKING (BUT WILL THEY SAVE LIVES?)

posted by kjalaw on Apr 13th, 2014 at 3:36 am

This month is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month — and for the first time ever, the federal government is spearheading a big, national, month-long publicity campaign to boost public awareness about the dangers of distractions while driving. This year’s campaign is being wrapped around the catch-phrase U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” and it will run simultaneously with law enforcement campaigns around the country against using a phone while driving.

Millions of dollars ($8.5 million) are being spent this month for this big media campaign which is being touted as supporting the “… the first-ever national distracted driving high-visibility enforcement (HVE) crackdown,” running from April 10 to April 15 this year.

As part of this year’s campaign, several videos are being released to promote greater awareness of the dangers of car crashes and traffic deaths from distractions while driving on U.S. roads. Some are finding these videos surprisingly violent — but the intent behind them isn’t to shock so much as it is to break through to teens and others who may not understand how serious it is to text or talk while driving a car. (One of these videos can be viewed below.)

DISTRACTED DRIVING STATISTICS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled research that includes the following scary facts:

  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2012 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • In 2012, there were 3,328 people killed and an estimated additional 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • In 2012, there were 540 non-occupants killed in distraction-affected crashes.

To prevent distracted driving, motorists are urged by NHTSA to:

  • Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
  • Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
  • Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.

VIOLENT VIDEO FROM APRIL 2014 U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY. CAMPAIGN BY NHTSA

 

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If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic accident where distracted driving was a factor, then please accept our sincerest condolences — from our perspective as plaintiffs’ accident lawyers (and staff), we understand how life-altering these events can be not only for the injury victim but also for all those family and friends who suffer, as well, in the aftermath of a tragic accident that could have been so easily prevented.

 

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RECALLS JUST KEEP HAPPENING: CAR MAKERS LIKE GENERAL MOTORS MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY, MANY SERIOUS INJURIES AND DEATHS

posted by kjalaw on Apr 6th, 2014 at 3:19 am

MILLIONS OF RECALLS ANNOUNCED BY CAR MANUFACTURERS IN PAST 30 DAYS

Some are calling the evolving scandal of the General Motors recalls in 2014 for a faulty ignition switch as something that hasn’t been as scary and dangerous as the long-agoFord Pinto scandal where Ford’s model with it’s gas tank in the rear was one of the most infamous recalls of all time.

And the car recalls just keep happening. Today, Chrysler recalled almost a million (870,000) Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) for a defect in their brakes. Literally millions of vehicles have been recalled in the past thirty days.

Millions. In One Month’s Time.

Here’s the thing: recalls mean that there are vehicles on the road, or for sale on used car lots and in trade publications and classified ads, that are not safe.

It also means that there may have been accidents and wrecks going back almost a DECADE that may now be determined to be the fault of the vehicle subject to recall. If you or a loved one has been the victim of injury or wrongful death in a car crash or motor vehicle accident involving one of these recalled vehicles from GM (General Motors) or another manufacturer, then you may need to investigate whether or not the car maker is legally liable for the losses that you and your family have suffered.

Expect lots of lawsuits to be filed in response to these recalls. Because at least in GM’s case, the car manufacturer apparently knew of these dangers and didn’t share that information or fix the problem. For YEARS.

List of Vehicle Safety Recalls in the Past 30 Days (NHTSA)

Here is a list of recalls filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the past 30 days:

April 1: 1,340,447 GM vehicles from 2004-2010, including Chevrolet HHR and Saturn Aura models, Recalled for the electric power steering which may suddenly fail.
April 1: 489,936 GM vehicles from 2014-2015, including Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Sierra models, Recalled for the transmission oil cooler line that may not be secured, causing potential leaking that could start a fire.
April 1: 174,046 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles from 2013-2014, Recalled for the right front half shaft which may fracture, causing the vehicle to lose power.
March 31: 119,140 Toyota Avalon vehicles from 2003-2004, Recalled for the potential inadvertent deployment of the front air bags.
March 31: 9,816 Honda Civic LX vehicles from 2014, Recalled for potential tire damage during assembly, resulting in loss of air to the tire.
March 28: 656 Cadillac ELR vehicles from 2014, Recalled for potential loss of directional control due to a failure of the ESC system.
March 28: 209 Porsche 911 GT3 vehicles from 2014, Recalled for potential damage to the engine crankcase, causing oil to leak onto hot components of the engine which may cause a fire.
March 27: 989,701 Nissan vehicles from 2013-2014, including Nissan LEAF and Ifiniti Q50 models, Recalled for passenger seat sensors that may not detect when an adult is seated, causing the air bag to not deploy properly.
March 27: 43,452 Chrysler Dodge Charger vehicles from 2011-2012 equipped with halogen lights, Recalled for the sub-harness on the headlights which may overheat, causing the low beam headlights to go out.
March 27: 657 Newmar recreational vehicles from 2013-2014, including Canyon Star and Essex models, Recalled for microwaves that may start on their own, increasing the risk of a fire.
March 27: 343 Landi Renzo modified Ford vehicles from 2011-2014 made to operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), including E-150 and E-250 models, Recalled for the brackets that support the rear CNG cylinder which may fail, increasing the risk of a fire.
March 27: 195 Chrysler Dodge Ram 5500 trucks from 2014, Recalled for an incorrect Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which could lead to the truck being overloaded.
March 21: 355 GM vehicles from 2014, including Buick Regal and Chevrolet Impala models, Recalled for gear shifts that may not shift, increasing the risk of rollaway and injury.
March 18: 1,176,407 GM vehicles from 2008-2013, including Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse vehicles, Recalled for faulty side impact air bags and seat belt pretensioners.
March 18: 886,815 Honda Odyssey vehicles from 2005-2010, Recalled for a potential fuel leak, increasing the risk of a fire.
March 18: 303,013 GM vans from 2009-2014, including GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express models, Recalled for increased risk of injury to unbelted front seat passengers in the event of a crash below the air bag deployment threshold.
March 18: 63,903 Cadillac XTS vehicles from 2013-2014, Recalled for potential corrosion of the brake booster pump relay connector, increasing the risk of a fire.
March 18: 18,690 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles from 2012-2013, Recalled for a potential hard brake pedal feel, lengthening the distance needed to stop the vehicle.
March 18: 18,092 Fiat 500L vehicles from 2014, Recalled for the transmission gear which may not shift in certain temperatures, increasing the risk of a crash.
March 13: 4,453 BMW motorcycles from 2013, including C 600 Sport and F 800 GS models, Recalled for potential shutdown of the motorcycle while it’s being ridden.
March 10: 1,330 Aisin World transmissions, models A465 and A466 and placed in Isuzu and Chrysler vehicles, Recalled for potential loss of power transfer which may increase the risk of a crash.
March 10: Certain Monroe Trucks modified vehicles from 2005-2009, including Chevrolet C7500 and Ford F-350 models, Recalled for a battery epoxy sealing that may melt and start a fire.
March 7: 6,954 Honda CB500 and CBR500 motorcycles from 2013, Recalled for engine bolts that may have been manufactured incorrectly, which could result in loss of power and engine stalling.
March 7: 130 Freedom Motors wheelchair accessible vehicles from 2008-2010, including converted Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country models, Recalled for the rear axle which may develop cracks and result in axle failure.
March 6: 7,067 Toyota Highlander vehicles from 2014, Recalled for the third row middle seat belt which may not be properly anchored, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
February 27: Updated: 1,367,146 Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5 and Solstice, Saturn Ion vehicles from 2003-2007, Recalled for ignition switches that may move out of the run position, turning off the engine or causing the air bags to not deploy in the event of a crash.

 

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NEW FEDERAL RULE PUTS SEAT BELTS ON BUSES AND MOTORCOACHES: LAP AND SHOULDER SAFETY BELTS FOR BUS DRIVER AND FOR BUS PASSENGERS

posted by kjalaw on Nov 29th, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hundreds of people die each year in fatal traffic accidents where they are traveling in a large bus or motorcoach. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association has been tracking these fatality statistics since 1975, and as the New York Times recently pointed out, the number of deaths in bus crashes has not changed much over the years.

Accordingly, bus crashes have been the focus of federal safety scrutiny for awhile now, particularly when big bus accidents make the news as numbers of people have tragically died in high speed bus accidents. One week’s example is found in our July 2013 blog post entitled, “Four Serious Bus Crashes In The News This Week: How Dangerous Is It For You Or Your Kids To Ride On A Bus?”

Proposed federal rules and regulations have been considered as the federal government continues to find ways to make bus travel safer. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially issued the final rule established by the federal government which will mandate seat belts not only for bus drivers but for every passenger – safety belts for both the lap and the shoulder (just like the required safety belts in today’s sedans and minivans).

49 CFR 571 Expanded to Include Seat Belts on Motorcoaches and Large Buses

The rule (see 49 CFR Part 571), applies to new motorcoaches and other large buses, but excludes school buses and transit buses. Specifically, the new bus seat belt rule applies to applies to new over-the-road buses and to other new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (26,000 pounds) and becomes effect in November 2016. School buses are being considered in separate rule-making legislation which will appear in another section of 49 CFR 571.

How Big a Change is This in Bus Safety?

It’s debatable how much this new regulation will change things out on the road. Don’t be surprised if you step on a commercial bus and don’t see any seat belts for the driver or the passengers. The new regulation doesn’t make buses already on the road have safety belts installed on them; this rule applies only to new buses being sold in the United States after November 2016.

 

For more information on bus accidents, check out the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group web resources page on bus crashes as well as blog posts discussing bus accidents and bus safety.

 

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DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME IS OVER: BE CAREFUL OF DANGERS TO PEDESTRIANS, BICYCLISTS, AND OTHERS AS EVERYONE TRANSITIONS

posted by kjalaw on Nov 9th, 2013 at 2:55 am

This past Sunday, everyone in Indiana and Illinois moved their clocks back one hour, asDaylight Savings Time ended for 2013.

While Illinois is entirely within the Central Time Zone, Indiana is not; in fact, time is rather complicated in the State of Indiana (as the image depicts). Straddling the boundary linebetween the Eastern Time Zone and the Central Time Zone, Indiana has had somewhat of a bombastic history with the implementation of Daylight Savings Time and it was not until 2005 when the Indiana General Assembly voted for DST that Indianians had the chore of turning their clocks back in the fall. (Hawaii and most of Arizona still rebel against DST, and are the two remaining states not to participate in what is explained as an energy saving measure by the United States and some other 70-odd countries.)

Dark skies mean bigger dangers on the streets: car crashes, pedestrians being hit, and motorcycle accidents are at higher risk right now.

With this change in the morning alarm clock, lots of people are having to adjust to darker evening commutes, along with those who are walking or riding to school, to bus stops, or over to campus. People will be tired as their body clocks get adjusted to the new time frame, and the evening travel from work or school to home will not have natural daylight now. This means that there will be a higher risk of pedestrian accidentscar crashes, andmotorcycle accidents.

In fact, the dangers of the DST transition are so real that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a national news release this week, advising consumers on this danger. Here is the warning from the NHTSA:

WASHINGTON – As Daylight Saving Time ends on November 3, and clocks are turned back, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cautions motorists and pedestrians to be more alert as the potential for harm increases as darkness falls earlier.  NHTSA offers the following tips for motorist and pedestrian safety during the shorter days of autumn and winter:

Motorists

  • Slow down. During the evening hours, you need more time to see a pedestrian in your path.
  • Keep in mind that pedestrians who are wearing headphones, hats or earmuffs may not hear your vehicle as it approaches.
  • Keep your windshield, windows, and mirrors clean. Make sure your defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly and that washer fluid is replaced as needed.

Pedestrians

  • Carry a flashlight or attach reflective materials – such as fluorescent tape – to clothing, backpacks, purses, and briefcases. These materials reflect light from headlights back to drivers, making it easier to see you.
  • Don’t depend on the traffic signal to protect you. Motorists may be distracted, especially when adjusting to the nighttime travel environment.
  • Avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles. Crosswalks offer a safer alternative.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must walk on the street, face traffic.
  • When crossing the street, look left-right-left for cars from the curb.
  • Do not cross the street if a car is coming and use a crosswalk if available.
  • Watch out for cars at every driveway and intersection.
  • Stay completely focused on the road and avoid distractions.

NHTSA also cautions that the clock adjustment could catch some drivers by surprise – with sun glare or darkness occurring during different parts of their familiar driving routine. Also since sleep patterns are affected, the agency warns drivers to be aware of their need for rest and the effects that a loss of sleep can have on driving attention and fatigue.

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For more information, please see the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group web resources page for pedestrian accidents, auto accidents, and motorcycle crashes as well as our blog posts on motorcycle accidents, car crashes, and pedestrian accident injuries.

 

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PEDESTRIAN DEATHS ARE GROWING STATISTIC: NEW FEDERAL CAMPAIGN TO FIGHT RISING NUMBER OF PEDESTRIAN DEATHS AND WALKING ACCIDENT FATALITIES

posted by kjalaw on Aug 9th, 2013 at 8:18 am

More and more people are dying in pedestrian accidents in this country – a tragic reality recognized by many traffic researchers, law enforcement agencies, and most personal injury lawyers who help victims of pedestrian accidents as well as those seeking justice for loved ones who have died in a pedestrian accident while walking on a local street, road, or sidewalk.

Federal Program to Help Cities Fight Pedestrian Death and Serious Injuries in Walking Accidents

Yesterday, the Department of Transportation announced a new federal program designed to fight against the growing number of people dying while they are walking (to school, crossing a street, to meet a friend for lunch, etc.). Pedestrian fatalities are a serious problem in this country today, particularly in cities and urban areas, as the number of pedestrians deaths each year continues to rise.

Explains David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “We continue to see high rates of pedestrian fatalities in major cities and across every demographic. To help stop the recent increase in deaths and injuries, we need everyone to play a role in pedestrian safety. Working with partners on the federal, state, local and individual level, we hope to turn this concerning trend around.”

Who Are Pedestrians?

According to the NHTSA, the following people are considered to be “pedestrians” for purposes of accident analysis: any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, in a wheelchair, sitting, or lying down.

Which means that your child walking to the bus stop; your teenager walking in the mall parking lot; your grandmother taking her evening stroll through the neighborhood; and your spouse walking to meet you for lunch are all “pedestrians” who are at risk of serious injury or death by simply walking along according to federal research studies.

Federal Grants and New Informative Site – Two Parts of New Federal Fight Against Pedestrian Deaths

One part of the new federal program is a new educational website filled with safety information to be used by everyone from a concerned parent to a member of a local city government in addressing the problem of keeping kids and adults safe while they are walking in their communities. That can be found at the new site, Everyone is a Pedestrian.

The federal government is also providing funding to improve pedestrian safety. States have been given a deadline of August 30, 2013, to apply for a federal grant giving funding to education and regulation needs of the states with the highest metropolitan pedestrian death rates. The total amount made available to all the states by the DOT is $2 million and it being awarded via NHTSA.

How Serious is The Danger of Dying While Walking On Public Street or Sidewalk?

More and more pedestrians are dying in traffic accidents in the United States. It’s a growing concern as this appears to be a continuing, rising trend.

In 2011, there was a 3% increase in the number of people killed in traffic accidents as pedestrians. According to the NHTSA, in 2013 it is predicted that:

  • 1 pedestrian will be injured in this country every 8 minutes and
  • 1 pedestrian involved in a traffic accident will die every 2 hours.

It is already known, based upon current research studies that:

Most of these people will die in pedestrian accidents in urban areas (73%);
Most will die in a nighttime accident (70%); and
Most will die in a pedestrian accident that is NOT at a street intersection (70%).

Safety Tips for Pedestrians Provided by NHTSA

Here are the following tips offered to those who are walking on the streets, to protect against becoming a part of these tragic statistics of pedestrian deaths due to accidents:

  1. Follow the rules of the road.
  2. Cross at crosswalks or intersections.
  3. Obey signs and signals.
  4. Walk facing traffic.
  5. Walk on the sidewalk.
  6. Walk as far from traffic as possible if there is no sidewalk.
  7. Pay attention to the traffic moving around you.
  8. Do not be distracted with texting or talking on a cell phone while walking near dangerous traffic.

 

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MAJOR CAR RECALL: 1,900,000+ CARS RECALLED BY HYANDAI AND ITS SUBSIDIARY, KIA MOTOR COMPANY – MORE DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS ON U.S. ROADS

posted by kjalaw on Apr 18th, 2013 at 11:11 am

The number keeps getting bigger, depending upon which news report you read, but the latest reports are that Kia Motor Company, a part of the Hyundai Motor Company, is recalling around 2,000,000 vehicles sold here in the United States by the Korean car manufacturer because of concerns for dangers in a variety of areas. (The Detroit News’ tally is 2.2 million.)

According to recall information made public via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), thirteen models are covered in this huge recall, which is really covered in three separate recalls issued by the car company.   The problems all stem from issues in the electrical system and/or the airbags provided in the vehicles, and all these models are involved because the same parts are used in building all these different product options.

As of today:

  • Hyundai Motor Company has recalled over 1.06 million vehicles for electrical problems.
  • Kia Motor Company issued a separate recall for 623,000 vehicles.

Is Your Car Being Recalled?

According to the news releases issued by Hyundai or Kia, the following cars are subject to recall:

Hyundai models

  • 2007-09 Accent
  • 2007-10 Elantra
  • 2011-2013 Elantra (air bag malfunctions)
  • 2010-11 Genesis Coupe
  • 2007-11 Santa Fe SUV
  • 2011 Sonata sedan
  • 2008-09 Tucson
  • 2008-09 Veracruz SUV.

Kia Models

  • 2007-10 Rondo
  • 2007 Sedona
  • 2011 Optima
  • 2007-11 Sorento SUV
  • 2010-11 Soul
  • 2007-10 Sportage.

The Dangers That Caused the Recalls: Electrical System and Air Bag Malfunctions

What is going on here?  Most of the recalls involve electrical issues in these cars where, according to Hyandai in its public notice of the problem:
“… condition could potentially result in intermittent operation of the push-button start feature, intermittent ability to remove the vehicle’s shifter from the park position, illumination of the “ESC” [Electronic Stability Control] indicator lamp in the instrument cluster, intermittent interference with operation of the cruise control feature, or intermittent operation of the stop lamps….”
However, in the Hyundai Elantra (2011-2013 model years), there are problems with the air bags.   According to Hyandai, the side curtain airbag may injure a passenger in a side impact crash because of a problem with a support bracket in the headliner.
  • Of note:  in September 2012, NHTSA was not only investigating Hyandai’s air bags, it was upgrading its investigation – so the issue of air bags contained in these cars may be of continuing concern.  That federal investigation is ongoing.

 

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DANGEROUS CARS AND AUTO PRODUCTS: ALMOST 18 MILLION RECALLS REPORTED TO NHTSA IN 2012, A REMINDER THAT PRODUCTS ARE NOT SAFE JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE SOLD IN THE US MARKETPLACE

posted by kjalaw on Feb 3rd, 2013 at 8:25 am

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its tally of recalls in 2012 and it is shocking to think that in one year alone almost 18,000,000 vehicles driving on American roads along with the equipment for those vehicles as well as things like car safety seats for children were so flawed and unsafe that they were dangerous enough to warrant a product recall.

These are recalls dealing solely with the expertise of NHTSA in vehicle safety. This huge number of product recalls does not include things like drugs, food items, toys, furniture, clothing, or other products outside of the NHTSA purview.

According to the NHTSA report, consumers taking the time to report a complaint was a big help to the agency. In 2012, NHTSA received 41,912 complaints about car safety issues. However, the number of consumer complaints to NHTSA has gone down in the past few years: compare last year with the total complaints of 2011 (49,417) and the much higher number (65,765) in 2010.

To file a concern about possible danger of a car-related product (car, tire, seats, etc.) you can:

For more information, go here for the NHTSA 2012 recall report and go here for the NHTSA report of 2012 Recalls by Manufacturers.

Note: Reporting a complaint about a dangerous product helps the federal government learn of dangers to the public and move to get unsafe products out of the stream of commerce.  This is not the same as filing an individual claim for damages sustained by a product; for that, you need to pursue individual avenues like filing insurance claims, making police reports, and suing in state or federal court based upon product liability and personal injury laws.

 

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TOYOTA WILL PAY $17.35 MILLION FINE TO NHTSA FOR RECALL VIOLATIONS REGARDING FLOOR MAT PROBLEMS IN 2010 LEXUS MODELS

posted by kjalaw on Dec 24th, 2012 at 7:44 am

Today, Toyota Motor Corporation announced that it will be paying the maximum allowable fine under federal law to the federal government in response to the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NHTSA’s assertion that Toyota did not report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner.

How much will Toyota pay in fines?

$17.35 million.  It’s the biggest one-time penalty payment for recall violations that the NHTSA has ever got.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations.”

What happened here?

Less than a year ago, NHTSA started looking into a problem with floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s in Vehicle Owner Questionnaires (VOQs) and Early Warning Reporting data. By the summer, Toyota had reported to NHTSA that the car maker was aware of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat pedal entrapment in Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350s.

In June, Toyota recalled 154,036 Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350 and Model Year 2010 RX 450h vehicles for floor mat pedal entrapment.

Read the complete agreement between Toyota and NHTSA here.

Read the Toyota Recall online here.

Own a Lexus?  Check your VIN number against the recall information here.

 

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AIR BAGS: COUNTERFEIT AIR BAGS DANGEROUS – DO YOU HAVE A FAKE AIR BAG IN YOUR CAR OR TRUCK? DEFECTIVE PRODUCT WARNING ISSUED BY NHTSA

posted by kjalaw on Nov 14th, 2012 at 9:33 am

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has discovered that some evildoers are out there in the American marketplace, selling phony air bags as car parts – and that these fake air bags are very dangerous defective products because in a crash, they will not deploy properly – if they even inflate at all.

NHTSA reports that the fake air bags are cleverly packaged: it’s hard to tell the real from the counterfeit product. The phony air bags have the same insignias as the real thing, for example. Sneaky stuff.

It’s still being investigated by the federal agency, and right now no one knows how many of these fake air bags are out there in cars or trucks or SUVs driven by unsuspecting people, people thinking that if they were to be in an accident, they and their passengers would be protected by the vehicle’s safety devices. No numbers yet on whether anyone has been killed by these fake air bags not doing their job, either.

It’s only cars that have had an air bag replaced within the last THREE YEARS that are at risk of having a fake air bag installed in them. If you or a loved one has had a vehicle repaired anywhere other than a dealership (where they use parts straight from the manufacturer), then you may be at risk. According to NHTSA, you should probably check your air bags if:

  • have had air bags replaced within the past three years at a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership
  • have purchased a used car that may have sustained an air bag deployment before their purchase
  • own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed
  • have purchased replacement air bags from eBay or other non-certified sources—especially if they were purchased at unusually low prices (i.e. less than $400)

Vehicle makes that may be at risk here include:  Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyandai, Infiniti, Kia, Land Rover, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

 

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BICYCLE ACCIDENTS: MAY IS NATIONAL BIKE SAFETY MONTH – HOW SAFE ARE YOU AND YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU ARE RIDING YOUR BICYCLE?

posted by kjalaw on May 17th, 2012 at 7:50 am

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Automobile Association (AAA) are working together this year in a joint campaign called “Roll Model,” to help promote bike safety awareness in May 2012, which is National Bicycle Safety Month.

As more and more Americans are looking to bicycles not only for fun in the summer months, or ways to get to school and back, but also as an alternate to driving a car in these days of high gas prices, it has never been more important to recognize that under state law, bicycles are considered vehicles on the road with the same rights and the same legal duties as the cars, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles with which the bikes share the roads.

This means that Bike Safety is very important, not just for smart bicycle riding but also because in many instances, it’s the law. Things like wearing the proper gear – including a bicycle helmet – are important and bike riders should be aware and follow these safety rules.

From the AAA, here are some bicycle safety tips:

  1. Wear your helmet. Follow this simple rule and you reduce your risk of serious injury by as much as 85 percent.
  2. Keep your head up and look ahead, not at the ground. You need to see what is coming up so you have time to react and maneuver.
  3. One person per bike. Riding with unsecured passengers puts you at risk for injury to yourself and others.
  4. Ride in single file with space between bikes.
  5. Ride on the right side of the road, never against traffic. Otherwise, you are at risk for an accident – or a ticket.
  6. Plan ahead if you will ride in a group. Agree on the route ahead of time. Have a plan on what you will do if separated by traffic.
  7. If you will be riding in an unfamiliar area, check out local laws and rules first.
  8. Avoid busy roads and peak traffic times on your route.
  9. Before riding at night, ask someone to help you check your visibility to motorists.
  10. Maintain the bikes in your household. Keep chains clean and lubricated and periodically inspect brake pads.

 

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THE DANGERS OF 15-PASSENGER VANS: CHURCHES, SCHOOLS, AND OTHER GROUPS USE PASSENGER VANS THAT HAVE REAL SAFETY ISSUES – NEW FEDERAL WARNING

posted by kjalaw on Mar 30th, 2012 at 2:44 am

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Consumer Advisory regarding traveling in 15-Passenger Vans. As you’ll remember, a lot of national attention was brought on the dangers of these big vans on American roads after the horrific crash of a big rig into a family riding in a passenger van on the way to a family wedding. Eleven of those van passengers died that day.

That tragedy involving a highway crash of a 15-Passenger Van was determined to be caused by truck driver fatigue and not the van itself rolling over, however the dangers of these bulky vehicles on the road remains a real concern.  This isn’t news.

The 15-Passenger Van has been a source of concern by those in the know for a long time.

Why?  Filled with people, suitcases, ice chests, sporting equipment, etc., these 15-Passenger Vans have a problem with load weight and wheel balance.  They are at risk for ROLLOVERS.

One study shows that 74% of these 15-Passenger Vans are at risk for rollover because of tires not having the right amount of air inflation.  Another shows that these vans carry a greater risk of death or serious injury of the passengers because seat belts are not provided.   Others point to drivers being improperly trained on driving these vehicles;California has passed a law requiring a special license for those taking the wheel of a 15-Passenger Van.

For several years Public Citizen has been warning Americans about the problems of rollovers.  Public Citizen warns:

The high rollover propensity of 15-passenger vans is linked to the vehicle’s high center of gravity, which tends to increase and shift rearward as the vehicle is loaded with occupants and cargo. The rearward shift in the center of gravity decreases the van’s lateral stability and makes it prone to fishtailing. If loss of control occurs, the van’s high center of gravity may cause it to tip and rollover.

From Public Citizen, the following recommendations are made for anyone traveling in a 15-Passenger Van:

Ideally, you should take your 15-passenger van out-of-service and use a small school bus for group transportation.

Here is the March 22, 2012 NHTSA Consumer Warning:

NHTSA Offers Tips for Safe Travel in 15-Passenger Vans

For Immediate Release / March 22, 2012
Contact: Derrell Lyles, 202-366-9550

WASHINGTON, DC – As the spring driving season gets under way, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging colleges, church groups, and other users of 15-passenger vans to take specific steps to keep drivers and passengers safe — including buckling up every trip, every time.

Recognizing that 15-passenger vans are particularly sensitive to loading, the agency warns users never to overload these vehicles under any circumstances. NHTSA research shows overloading 15-passenger vans both increases rollover risk and makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers.

Tire pressure can vary on front and back tires that are used for 15-passenger vans. This is why the agency urges vehicle users to make certain the vans have appropriately-sized and load rated tires that are properly inflated before every trip. Taking into account the fact that tires degrade over time, NHTSA recommends that spare tires not be used as replacements for worn tires. In fact, many tire manufacturers recommend that tires older than 10 years not be used at all.

Following are safety tips for anyone planning a trip in a 15-passenger van:

Never overload the vehicle.
If you are a passenger, make sure you buckle up for every trip.
If you are an owner, make sure the vehicle is regularly maintained.
Owners should have suspension and steering components inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule and replace or repair these parts as necessary.
Owners should ensure that vehicles are equipped with properly sized and load-rated tires.
Owners should also make sure drivers are properly licensed and experienced in operating a 15-passenger van.
Before every trip, drivers should check the tires for proper inflation, and make sure there are no signs of wear or damage. Correct tire size and inflation pressure information can be found in the owner’s manual and on the door pillar.

 

Be careful out there. These 15-Passenger Vans can be seen on the roads of Indiana and Illinois, and they are sold with a flourish at local dealerships to all sorts of groups. These vans are dangerous in the way that they are made. Use with care.

 

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CHEVY VOLT FIRE STARTS DAYS AFTER CRASH: HOW SAFE ARE ELECTRIC CARS? VOLT FIRE SPARKS NHTSA RESEARCH STUDY INTO LITHIUM-ION VEHICLES

posted by kjalaw on Nov 20th, 2011 at 7:18 am

Electric cars – they seem so smart to drive, and most of them come with a nice design and lots of cool options.   Especially with all the concerns about oil and gas prices (and usage).

Well, nothing’s perfect and the big news last week was when a Chevrolet Volt bought by the federal government for crash tests actually caught fire over three weeks after the Volt was used in testing — which means that now, lots of folk are wondering about how safe these lithium-ion vehicles really are, after a crash.

Three weeks after the crash, the Chevy Volt is on fire?  No wonder people are scratching their heads.

Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be checking into what happened to that electric car – and it’s already known that the crash testing did some sort of damage to the Chevy Volt’s lithium-ion battery. How that crash resulted in a fire over 21 days later, that’s still a mystery.

The manufacturer is pointing the finger at the folk who did the crash tests, opining that they failed to follow standard safety protocols – and that the only Chevy Volt known to catch fire was this Crash Test Volt.

What happens if you own an electric car and you are in a crash?  Well, be careful and be aware of the unknown risks at this point – and remember, product liability laws are designed to protect you from harm in these kinds of situations.

From the NHTSA:

Electric vehicles show great promise as an innovative and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. These vehicles have already demonstrated their potential to save consumers money at the pump and help protect the environment — and they could pave the way to the kind of clean energy jobs that will help our country compete on a global scale. As manufacturers continue to develop vehicles of any kind — electric, gasoline, or diesel — it is critical that they take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of drivers — and first responders — both during and after a crash.

That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working with all vehicle manufacturers to ensure they have the appropriate post-crash protocols. Let us be clear: NHTSA does not believe electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than other vehicles. It is common sense that the different designs of electric vehicles will require different safety standards and precautions. The Department of Energy and the National Fire Protection Association already collaborate to ensure first responders know the risks and the appropriate steps to take so they can perform their jobs safely given the shock hazard that a damaged electric vehicle may present, and NHTSA will work closely with these organizations to ensure that guidance for the emergency response community reflects the information NHTSA obtains.

In the near term, NHTSA is focused on identifying the best ways to ensure that consumers and emergency responders are aware of any risks they may encounter in electric vehicles in post-crash situations. The agency has asked all of the manufacturers who currently have electric vehicles on the market (or plans to introduce electric vehicles in the near future) to provide information on the protocols they have established for discharging and handling their lithium-ion batteries — including any recommendations for mitigating fire risks in these vehicles. Ultimately we hope the information we gather will lay the groundwork for detailed guidance for first responders and tow truck operators for use in their work responding to incidents involving these vehicles.

NHTSA has carefully investigated an incident involving a fire in a Chevy Volt that occurred more than three weeks after that vehicle had been crash tested as part of the agency’s New Car Assessment Program on May 12 of this year. NHTSA has concluded that the crash test damaged the Volt’s lithium ion battery and that the damage led to a vehicle fire that took several weeks to develop after the test was completed. That incident — which occurred at the test facility and caused property damage but no injuries — remains the only case of a battery-related fire in a crash or crash test of vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, despite a number of other rigorous crash tests of the Chevy Volt separately conducted by both NHTSA and General Motors. In the coming weeks, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, NHTSA will conduct additional testing of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries and will continue to monitor these vehicles — as the agency does with all vehicles on our nation’s roadways — should any safety issues arise.

Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. In fact, all vehicles — both electric and gasoline-powered — have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. NHTSA urges the following precautions in the event of a crash involving an electric vehicle:

  • Consumers are advised to take the same actions they would in a crash involving a gasoline-powered vehicle — exit the vehicle safely or await the assistance of an emergency responder if they are unable to get out on their own, move a safe distance away from the vehicle, and notify the authorities of the crash.
  • Emergency responders should check a vehicle for markings or other indications that it is electric-powered. If it is, they should exercise caution, per published guidelines, to avoid any possible electrical shock and should disconnect the battery from the vehicle circuits if possible.
  • Emergency responders should also use copious amounts of water if fire is present or suspected and keeping in mind that fire can occur for a considerable period after a crash should proceed accordingly.
  • Operators of tow trucks and vehicle storage facilities should ensure the damaged vehicle is kept in an open area instead of a garage or other enclosed building.
  • Rather than attempt to discharge a propulsion battery, an emergency responder, tow truck operator, or storage facility should contact experts at the vehicle’s manufacturer on that subject.
  • Vehicle owners should not store a severely damaged vehicle in a garage or near other vehicles.

 

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2012 VEHICLES TO BE RATED UNDER FED GOVERNMENT’S NEW NTHSA 5-STAR SAFETY PROGRAM – PRODUCTS DEEMED LESS LIKELY TO INJURE OR KILL

posted by kjalaw on Oct 21st, 2011 at 7:31 am

The federal government has revealed which 2012 model year vehicles it will test and rate for safety as part of its tougher testing standards, as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star safety ratings program. Not all new cars get rated: this year, 81% of the 2012 passenger vehicles to be sold in the United States will be checked by the crash test dummies and 92% of the new models will get rollover tests.

Of those tested, the federal government makes recommendations on which vehicles have the best “crash avoidance” gizmos.  (This year, 38 models got top “crash avoidance” recommendations.)

Out of all the cars available to the American consumer, 42 passenger cars, 22 sport utility vehicles, 2 vans, and 8 pickups are rated, each getting an overall score.

“Our 5-star ratings program is a critical resource to help consumers make the best possible decisions about the cars they want to buy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By revamping the tests and creating a more rigorous program last year, we raised the bar on safety for all vehicle manufacturers. People should remember: More stars, safer cars.”

Results for the 74 vehicles will be posted online at www.safercar.gov.

Here are the 2012 vehicles being tested for crash and rollover safety :

2012 Model Year Vehicle Test List

PASSENGER CARS

Acura TL 4 DR

BMW 328i 4 DR

(list continues)

Buick Regal eAssist 4 DR

Cadillac CTS 4 DR

Chevrolet Camaro 2 DR

Chevrolet Impala 4 DR

Chevrolet Sonic 4 DR

Chrysler 200 4 DR

Chrysler 300 4 DR
Coda Coda 4 DR

Dodge Avenger 4 DR

Dodge Charger 4 DR

Fiat 500 3 HB

Ford Focus 4 DR

Ford Focus BEV 4 DR

Ford Mustang 2 DR

Ford Transit Connect 4 DR

Honda Civic 2 DR

Honda Civic IMA 4 DR

Honda CR-Z 3 HB

Honda Fit 5 HB

Hyundai Accent 4 DR

Hyundai Elantra 4 DR

Kia Rio 4 DR

Lexus ES350 4 DR

Mazda Mazda3 4 DR

Mazda Mazda6 4 DR

Mitsubishi iMiEV 5 HB

Mitsubishi Lancer 4 DR

Nissan Maxima 4 DR

Nissan Versa 4 DR

Subaru Impreza 4 DR

Subaru Legacy 4 DR

Suzuki SX4 4 DR

Toyota Camry 4 DR

Toyota Corolla 4 DR

Toyota Prius v SW

Toyota Scion iQ 3 HB

Toyota Yaris Liftback 5 HB

Volkswagen Beetle 2 DR

Volkswagen Passat 4 DR

Volvo S60 4 DR

PICKUP TRUCKS

Make Model Body Style

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 PU/CC

Ford F-150 Supercab PU/EC

Ford F-250 Super Crew PU/CC

Ram 1500 Crew Cab PU/CC

Ram 2500 Crew Cab PU/CC

Ram 1500 Quad Cab PU/EC

Toyota Tacoma PU/CC

Toyota Tundra PU/CC

SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES

Acura MDX SUV

Cadillac SRX SUV

Chevrolet Suburban 1500 SUV

Dodge Durango SUV

Dodge Journey SUV

Ford Expedition SUV

Ford Explorer SUV

Honda CR-V SUV

Honda Pilot SUV

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV

Hyundai Tucson SUV

Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV

Jeep Liberty SUV

Kia Sorento SUV

Kia Soul SUV

Kia Sportage SUV

Mitsubishi Outlander SUV

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SUV

Nissan Juke SUV

Subaru Outback SUV

Toyota 4Runner SUV

Toyota RAV4 SUV

VANS

Chrysler Town & Country VAN

Toyota Sienna VAN

 

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SEAT BELTS KILL AND SERIOUSLY INJURE PEOPLE – THIS WEEK, SUPREME COURT NIXES CAR MAKERS FROM EVADING RESPONSIBILITY

posted by kjalaw on Feb 28th, 2011 at 7:16 am

Seat belts exist only to keep people safe, but the reality is that there are many occasions where safety belts seriously injure and even cause the deaths of those who obediently use them.

This is why the Williamson lawsuit was filed.  It originates in a 2002 car crash where Thanh Williamson, 32, died while wearing a lap seat belt in a Mazda 1993 MPV minivan.  Mazda argued that Williamson was setting in the center position of the rear passenger seat and at the time, the car maker was only required to provide a lap band for this spot per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulation.  Mazda’s defense isn’t that the seat belt wasn’t the cause of Mrs. Williamson’s death; instead, Mazda claimed it should not be liable because the nine (9) year old minivan was okay under federal regulations when it left the plant.

Last November, we considered the Mazda Seat Belt case because of its national importance.  The U.S. Supreme Court had a big decision to make: whether or not to allow car manufacturers to avoid legal liability for these seat beat injuries and deaths because at the time the cars (or trucks or minivans) are made, they meet the minimum safety standards set by federal law.

Now, the United States Supreme Court has ruled. Unanimously. And, it’s a big deal for many reasons — but for those who care about people being safe in their cars, here’s why this week’s opinion is so important to us all:  the High Court has told the American automobile industry that federal regulations were created only to set the minimum standard, not to provide the car makers with some kind of shield, or immunity, from legal responsiblity if their product harmed or killed their customers.

Of course, car makers are dismissing the major impact of this new Supreme Court decision to the public (like those explanations given to the Detroit News).  However, read the entire Supreme Court opinion (with all the Justices in agreement, a rare showing of solidarity these days) in Cause No. 08-1314, styled Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc. and you will find language like this:

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 (1989 version) requires, among other things, that auto manufacturers install seat belts on the rear seats of passenger vehicles. They must install lap-and-shoulder belts on seats next to a vehicle’s doors or frames. But they have a choice about what to install on rear inner seats (say, middle seats or those next to a minivan’s aisle). There they can install either (1) simple lap belts or (2) lap-and-shoulder belts. 54 Fed. Reg. 46257–46258 (1989); 49 CFR §571.208 (1993), promulgated pursuant to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (Act), 80 Stat. 718, 15 U. S. C. §1381.

The question presented here is whether this federal regulation pre-empts a state tort suit that, if successful,would deny manufacturers a choice of belts for rear inner seats by imposing tort liability upon those who choose to install a simple lap belt. We conclude that providing manufacturers with this seat belt choice is not a significant objective of the federal regulation. Consequently, the regulation does not pre-empt the state tort suit.

[From Justice Sontemayor's Concurrence, the following:]

In other words, the mere fact that an agency regulation allows manufacturers a choice between options is insufficient to justify implied pre-emption; courts should only find pre-emption where evidence exists that an agency has a regulatory objective— e.g., obtaining a mix of passive restraint mechanisms, as in Geier—whose achievement depends on manufacturers having a choice between options. A link between a regulatory objective and the need for manufacturer choice to achieve that objective is the lynchpin of implied pre-emption when there is a saving clause.

 

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