Federal Regulators Dropping the Ball on Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Posted by Larry Coben on Sep 29, 2016 11:34:40 AM

Autonomous vehicles may be the most significant technological development we’ll see in our lifetime, but recently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued guidelines that fail to provide thoughtful, thorough regulatory guidance. In doing so NHTSA ignored its Congressional mandate and passed the buck to the states.

Rather than provide us with one set of consistent, national regulations that prioritize transparency, safety, and accountability, NHTSA is pushing us into a patchwork of state-by-state rules that will create confusion when clarity is badly needed.

This exciting technology has the power to improve highway safety, but not if the automobile industry is left to its own devices. From faulty airbags to dangerous ignition switches, hidden devices to conceal exhaust levels, and malfunctioning gas pedals, auto manufacturers have a well-documented record of carelessness and negligence.

Now, because of NHTSA’s failure, auto makers will be able to duck responsibility if their autonomous vehicles malfunction and cause injury or death. Consumers will be in a horror scene from a sci-fi movie every time an autonomous vehicle is on the road.

We believe that NHTSA is making a grave mistake by failing to uphold its federal obligation to ensure transparency, safety, and accountability at this critical moment and we urge them to reconsider their reckless approach immediately.

Larry Coben earned his law degree, cum laude, from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1973. He has represented clients in nearly every state in the U.S. against multi-national corporations marketing Coben-1.jpgdefective and unsafe products.

In addition to hundreds of articles in various publications, Larry has authored three books:

  • Crashworthiness Litigation, 2d, American Association of Justice, 2008.
  • Products Liability Litigation: Product Studies—Chapters on Crashworthiness, Frontal, Restraint Systems, Seat Belts. Clark, Boardman and Callaghan, 1996.
  • Pennsylvania Products Liability Guide, Bisel Publishing Co., 1993.

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety

Anapol Weiss Shareholder Larry Coben Leading the Fight on Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Aug 22, 2016 10:48:03 AM

Anapol Weiss Shareholder Larry Coben says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been "asleep at the wheel" when it comes to regulations concerning the safety of autonomous vehicles. 

"Without federal regulation, each state will chart its own course on driverless ­vehicles, crash-avoidance technology and the range of innovations already finding their way onto America's roads. The buffet of state Coben-1.jpglaws will create a mess for all ­parties,” Coben told The Legal Intelligencer in a recent article.

He added that an another concern is that, without guidance form the NHTSA, states may attempt to provide legal immunity for manufacturers of autonomous vehicles.

To Coben the solution is clear: The NHTSA is better suited to enact consistent, effective, national autonomous vehicle safety regulations than the individual states, and it must act quickly as it’s already falling behind. 

Read the article in its entirety here: www.thelegalintelligencer.com-Plaintiffs-Lawyers-Say-Feds-Asleep-at-the-Wheel-on-Driverless-Cars

If you’re interested in discussing autonomous vehicle safety issues with Larry, you can contact him here

Topics: Crash Safety

Challenging Auto Manufacturers to Make Safer Cars and Trucks

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Jun 9, 2016 11:18:43 AM

Challenging_Automakers.jpgCrashworthiness refers to a motor vehicle’s ability to safely protect people during a collision. Cars and trucks must have various safety features, such as airbags, headrests, roll bars and seat belts, that are meant to prevent or lessen injuries. When these features fail, unnecessary injuries occur.

Automakers have, without question, a responsibility to sell cars and trucks with safety features that work properly each and every time. Unfortunately, automotive defects continue to occur and in greater numbers.  Industry analysts told MarketWatch that  safety recalls were “well above” usual in 2015, with a record 51 million cars recalled in nearly 900 campaigns.  The year 2016 could be another banner year with additional cars affected by the Takata airbag recall ­- another 35 to 40 million cars were added in May.  Some estimate that nearly one-quarter of all vehicles on the road in the U.S. could be subject to a safety recall.

Failure to Equip?

Some vehicle manufacturers began introducing ground-breaking safety technology to minimize or reduce the risk of crashes in their products beginning in the mid-2000s. Since then, others have joined the ranks but these features are either only being added as optional features or limited to luxury vehicles.

The absence of these safety features may cause an accident or serious injury. As a result, litigation surrounding the corporate decision not to include computer aided technology is rapidly trending in the court system. Some of the safety features whose absence may lend to a “failure to equip” claim include: automatic emergency braking with collision warning, lane control and lane departure warning, blind spot assist, and autopilot.

Holding Vehicle Manufacturers Accountable

Anapol Weiss is committed to taking auto manufacturers to task.  Over the past 40 years, we have battled with automotive giants such as General Motors, Volkswagen, Honda and Ford for design and manufacturing defects that killed or seriously injured passengers.

Vehicle owners and passengers have a right to expect the best protection possible from their cars and trucks. When an automotive defect results in death or catastrophic injury, our crashworthiness team will hold automakers accountable.

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

Three of the Largest Automotive Defect Recalls in Recent History

Posted by Anapol Weiss on May 23, 2016 11:30:00 AM

In less than a decade, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled after design and manufacturing flaws led to the death and injury of many unsuspecting people. Below are three of the largest recalls in recent history.

Takata Airbag Safety Recall

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For decades, firm Shareholder Larry E. Coben has been
standing up to huge auto manufacturers after their
defective products killed and injured people.

In May 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its expansion and acceleration of the Takata airbag inflator recall. The move adds 35 to 40 million additional inflators to the already recalled 28.8 million. This safety recall is the largest and most complex in U.S. history.

Takata initially announced the defect in 2013 following reports of airbag inflator ruptures that shot metal shrapnel at people during deployment. The defective airbags have been tied to ten deaths and more than 100 injuries in the U.S.

In 2015, the NHTSA imposed its largest historical civil penalty for Takata’s violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The agency also for the first time used its authority to accelerate recall repairs to the millions of vehicles that contain the possibly faulty airbags.

Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Toyota recalled 9 million vehicles beginning in 2009 after a combination of manufacturing flaws prevented drivers of several vehicle models from slowing down or stopping while the car was in motion. The floor mats in some of the vehicles jammed under the accelerator, whereas in others, the gas pedal would stick.

The defects may have led to 89 reported deaths, 57 injuries and more than 6,200 complaints involving sudden acceleration.

GM Ignition Switch Recall

General motors recalled 2.6 million vehicles worldwide after reports that their faulty ignition switches can suddenly be moved from the run position to the accessory or off position. Moving the ignition switch out of the run position while the car is moving disables the airbags and cuts off power brakes and power steering. At least 30 deaths and numerous catastrophic injuries have been linked to the defects.

Getting Justice

Drivers and passengers have a right to expect their vehicles’ design to offer them the highest level of safety and functionality possible. When a motor vehicle defect results in death or catastrophic injury during a collision, victims and their families deserve to know what happened and who is responsible.

Contact our firm today for assistance if you suspect an automotive defect played a role in a loved one’s catastrophic injuries or death. Our automotive defects and products liability team has decades of success obtaining justice for victims injured as a result of motor vehicle-related product defects, and we can answer any legal questions you may have.

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

35 to 40 Million More Defective Airbags to be Recalled

Posted by Anapol Weiss on May 11, 2016 3:30:00 PM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expanding and accelerating the Takata air bag inflator recall. The expansion means that all Takata ammonium nitrate-based propellant frontal air bag inflators without a chemical drying agent will be recalled.

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Was your vehicle recalled?

Download List of  Affected Vehicles

Ruptures of the Takata inflators have been tied to ten deaths and more than 100 injuries in the U.S., according to a press release by the NHTSA. The faulty airbags were reported to have shot shrapnel at people during deployment.

Takata will have to make a series of safety defect decisions that will support vehicle manufacturer recall campaigns of an additional estimated 35 to 40 million inflators – adding to the 28.8 million inflators previously recalled. The recall expansions will commence in phases between May 2016 and December 2019. The five recall phases are based on prioritization of risk based on the inflators’ ages and exposure to high humidity and fluctuating high temperatures – all of which have been determined to accelerate the degradation of the chemical propellant inside the inflator.

This is the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history. The NHTSA imposed its largest historical civil penalty in 2015 for Takata’s violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The agency also for the first time used its authority to accelerate recall repairs to millions of affected vehicles.

Obtaining Justice for People Injured by Vehicle Defects

Car owners have a right to expect their vehicles have been designed to provide them with the best protection possible. Victims and their families deserve justice when an airbag failure or other car defects result in death or catastrophic injury.

For decades, Anapol Weiss has been successfully advocating for those killed or catastrophically injured by defective airbags or other airbag failures. Contact our firm for assistance if you or a family member was injured as a result of a vehicle malfunction. Our highly qualified team can investigate and answer your legal questions.

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

Airbag Injuries Caused by Unnecessary Deployment

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Apr 28, 2016 11:30:00 AM

Airbags save lives every day. However, motorists can be killed or severely injured when an airbag malfunctions and unnecessarily deploys. In addition to severe abrasions and burns, a person can sustain permanent eye damage, neck injuries and more. Further, a driver-side airbag that deploys while the vehicle is in motion endangers vehicle occupants as well as the people nearby on the road.

Some of the most deadly airbag injuries are not immediately visible. A study published in 2014 found that certain “hidden” cardiac and pulmonary injuries can result from airbag deployment – even if there are no visible injuries upon presentation at to the hospital. The study found that the main types of cardiovascular-related airbag injuries following airbag deployment are:

  • Heart attack
  • Aortic transection
  • Tricuspid-valve injury
  • Right atrial rupture 
  • Cardiac contusion
  • Aortic-valve avulsion
  • Cardiac tamponade
  • Hemopericardium

The study’s authors note that young children, short people, and those who sit closer than ten inches to an airbag’s location can sustain greater injuries.

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Certain defective airbags come with dangers all their own. The potentially explosive Takata airbags, for example, were reported to have shot shrapnel at people during deployment. The defect led to a massive recall of vehicles made by 14 different automakers in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called “the largest, most complex safety recall in history.” The explosive airbag deployment has been linked to seven deaths and more than 100 injuries.

Manufacturers are expected to produce airbags that effectively protect people from harm – anything less is unacceptable. For decades, Anapol Weiss has represented victims injured and the loved ones of those killed by malfunctioning airbags. Contact our firm for assistance if you or a family member sustained airbag deployment injuries. We can help.

 

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

Airbag Injuries and Failures

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Apr 11, 2016 3:30:00 PM

Airbag Injuries and Failures

Vehicles are becoming increasingly safer to keep up with the demands of consumers and government groups. As part of the global effort to improve safety and crash protection, many newer vehicle models have multiple airbags installed to protect occupants in a variety of collisions.

All cars sold in the United States must have dual front airbags. During a crash, the driver's airbag deploys from the steering wheel, and the passenger's airbag deploys from the dashboard. Many new cars have a weight sensor in the front passenger seat to detect small statured people and either delay deployment, change the characteristics of the deployment or prevent deployment.

Side airbags protect occupants from side-impact collisions. There are three main types of side-impact airbags:

  1. Torso airbags protect an adult's chest in a side impact crash. They are either mounted in the side of the seat back or in the vehicle’s door.
  2. Head side-impact airbags can protect both front and rear occupants. Some of them may also remain inflated for a longer period of time to also protect occupants against ejection in the event of a rollover. Some newer convertible vehicles have head side-impact airbags located in the window sill, which deploy upwards in a crash.
  3. Head/chest combination airbags are usually mounted in the side of the seat and are typically larger than torso airbags.

Many new vehicle models now have knee airbags to prevent front seat occupants from sustaining severe knee injuries from hitting the dashboard during a collision.

Rollover airbag systems:

  1. Over the past decade, most SUVs and many passenger cars have been equipped with rollover curtain airbags. In an accident that causes the vehicle to rollover, airbags are deployed from the roof panel over the side windows and they then cover the entire side window and remain inflated for 5 to 6 seconds to prevent or reduce the risk of ejection.

Airbag Injuries

Vehicle occupants can suffer catastrophic injuries if an airbag does not function the way in which it is intended. Dangerous issues related to airbag malfunctions include:

  • Spontaneous deployment
  • Non-deployment
  • Dangerous chemicals used to inflate the airbag
  • Inappropriate contact with the airbag
  • Over-rapid deflation
  • Metal shrapnel punching out of the airbag

Inappropriate airbag sensitivity may cause an airbag to deploy when it is not needed, or it could fail to deploy when it is needed. An airbag must also fully inflate at the right time; premature or late inflation will fail to fully protect the occupant from impact.

Other types of airbag defects – such as the potentially explosive Takata airbags that shot shrapnel at people during a crash – have killed and severely injured drivers and passengers. For decades, our lawyers have successfully represented people who were catastrophically harmed by these and many other defects.

Failure to Install Airbags

Some car companies have not included certain types of airbags as a cost savings/profit-driven decision.  If you or a loved one are involved in an accident in a vehicle that did not include a certain type of airbag, you may have a legitimate claim.

Contact Anapol Weiss for assistance if you or a family member was hurt by a malfunctioning airbag. We can investigate the situation to determine if a defective product is to blame.

 

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

Crash Safety: New and Proposed Auto Safety Standards

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Mar 11, 2016 11:30:00 AM

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are once again raising the standards for motor vehicle safety. Among the changes to improve crashworthiness are tougher requirements for achieving the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation, as well as an improved safety rating system proposed by the NHTSA to begin with 2019 model year vehicles.

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How has Top Safety Pick+ Changed?

Requirements for both Top Safety Pick and TSP+ “… are good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a standard or optional front crash prevention system,” according to the IIHS. The winners of TSP+ have a superior- or advanced-rated front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities; these models must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target at designated speeds. Vehicles qualify for Top Safety Pick (but not TSP+) if they have a basic-rated front crash prevention system, which typically doesn’t brake on its own and issues a warning.

It is becoming increasingly challenging for automakers to receive top crash safety ratings. This year’s award for the highest rating requires a “good” rating in the small overlap front crash as well as an available front crash prevention system. As this requirement sets the bar even higher for automakers to receive TSP+, consumers may notice certain popular domestic makes and models did not qualify for TSP+ this go-around.

What is the Proposed Safety Rating System?

The proposed new safety ratings for the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) will further inform and enable consumers to choose vehicles that will better protect drivers and passengers in automobile accidents, while encouraging car companies to provide better crash protection and more advanced safety technology. The NCAP will use a new five-star safety rating system to assess technology for crash avoidance, vehicle occupant protection, pedestrian protection, and more. The NHTSA’s new system will dynamically update with emerging safety technologies, and it will use half-stars to provide more discriminating safety information. There’s a 60-day period for public comment on the proposed changes, which will be followed by a decision made by the end of 2016.

What Happens when a Vehicle Defect Hurts Someone?

Improved safety assessments only protect consumers to the point of an automaker’s design and manufacture of a vehicle – safety features must work properly every time without failure. Unfortunately, automotive defects continue to occur, and they result in death and catastrophic injury.

Contact our firm for assistance if you suspect your vehicle failed to properly protect you in an auto collision. Our team has a track record of success representing victims hurt by automotive defects.

 

Topics: Crashworthiness, Crash Safety

Possible Factors Contributing to Seat Belt Failure

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Mar 7, 2016 11:30:00 AM

Seat_Belt_Failure.pngWearing a seat belt is the most effective thing vehicle occupants can do to protect themselves in the event of a collision. Seat belts save thousands of lives every year – in fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that buckling up saved more than 62,000 lives between 2008 and 2012. It’s no wonder seat belt use in the United States reached 88.5 percent in 2015.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of a seat belt in protecting a vehicle occupant substantially decreases when a component is defectively designed. Below are a few possible ways a defective seat belt can fail during a collision and lead to death or serious injuries.

  • Buckle releases from latch
  • False latching
  • Seat belt detaches from anchor
  • Belt webbing material tears
  • Retractor fails, causing excessive slack

Lap belts – those without a shoulder restraint component – are common in older vehicle models and are known to severely injure people in a motor vehicle accident. In addition, automatic front seat belt systems are not always used properly, as the lap belt component requires manual buckling. Without the lap restraint in use, the vehicle occupant can slide under the shoulder belt during a crash and collide with the interior of the vehicle.

It’s often difficult to determine whether a seat belt failed in a collision, especially if the vehicle occupants were killed. This complex investigation process requires the skill and knowledge of an experienced product defect attorney.

Contact Anapol Weiss for assistance if you suspect a seat belt failed in a motor vehicle crash. We can investigate the accident and determine if a seat belt failed to provide adequate protection.

 

Topics: Crashworthiness, Crash Safety

How do Airbag Injuries Occur?

Posted by Anapol Weiss on Feb 10, 2016 11:30:00 AM

Airbags save countless lives every year, as they protect drivers and passengers from striking the interior of the vehicle in the event of a collision. Unfortunately, the defective design and/or manufacture of an airbag can do much more harm than good in some situations.

An airbag is essentially a deflated balloon that rapidly inflates via a deceleration sensor in the vehicle, according to a 2002 review of injuries associated with airbag deployment published in the Emergency Medicine Journal. Drivers are protected from steering wheel impact, and additional airbags provide protection against impact with the dashboard or side panels.

airbag_injuries.jpg

Vehicle occupants can sustain severe and preventable injuries if an airbag’s sensitivity is inappropriate. If the deceleration sensor is set too high, for example, an airbag may fail to deploy in certain collisions during which an occupant needed the protection. On the other hand, if the sensor is too sensitive, the airbag may deploy when it is not needed. An airbag must also fully inflate at the right time – inflation that occurs too early or too late will fail to protect the occupant from impact with the interior.

Injuries can result from all stages of airbag deployment and from a number of occurrences that should not have happened. These issues may include:

  • Non-deployment
  • Spontaneous deployment
  • Chemicals used to inflate the bag
  • Inappropriate contact with the bag
  • Over-rapid deflation
  • Metal shrapnel punching out of the bag

Decades of recalls have resulted from other types of airbag defects that have killed and severely injured drivers and passengers. For example, automakers recalled millions of vehicles with potentially explosive Takata airbags that shot shrapnel at people during a crash.

Taking Action

There’s no doubt that airbags protect people every day, but it is the manufacturers’ responsibility to design and construct a trustworthy and safe product. When they fail to do so, they must be held accountable for letting drivers and passengers get hurt.

Contact our firm for assistance if your airbag failed to work properly and resulted in injuries. We can investigate the situation and answer your legal questions.

 

Topics: Auto Accidents, Crash Safety, Product Liability, Defective Airbag

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