Recent recalls like the GM ignition switch crises, exploding Takata airbags and Chrysler’s foot-dragging have put automakers in the crosshairs of federal safety regulators. As a result, the feds have announced that automakers will now face much more stringent oversight.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recently released reports outlining their plans for tougher oversight and repairing internal shortcomings that may have allowed recent automaker debacles to occur.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the DOT and NHTSA’s announcement was their plans to consult with personal injury attorneys who are often consumed with safety hazards long before they reach the desk of the NHTSA.
Lawyers who specialize in auto accidents and product liability already possess sophisticated networks that share data used to build cases against negligent automakers. In cases where large settlements occur, court records are sealed. Some of these records may contain information regarding injuries at the hands of safety defects, and that information never makes it to the public.
This means that personal injury lawyers may start playing a critical role in the public’s safety. The information and research the lawyers gather while presenting personal injury cases and bringing them to trial could be extremely beneficial to federal safety regulators. As a result, lawyers may not be able to disclose case specifics, but they could be very helpful in pointing regulators in the right direction.
The NHTSA has been criticized over the past few decades for being too cozy with automakers and too slow to identify safety defects. The result of these is a less than diligent policing effort and call to action need to ensure all vehicles that are deemed unsafe are repaired promptly.
Future tragedies can be prevented and the efforts of the NHTSA will be revamped to do so. According to the NHTSA, no longer will information and evidence that could lead to automaker responsibility be ignored. And personal injury attorneys will play a large role in this effort.