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Car or Car Part Defects that Make Motor Vehicles Accident-Prone

Besides causing damage to property, a car accident can also either injure or take lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than five million motor vehicle accidents still occur on US roads and highways every year; more than 30,000 of these accidents are fatal, while at least two million are causes of either minor or severe injuries.

Due to the volume of vehicular crashes, it would not be a surprise if anyone would start wondering just how one motorist sees another driver, or how car and car parts manufacturers see those who they sell their products to. Is another motorist just a competitor for road space, or a car/car parts buyer just a source of profit?

In car accidents people who get injured or who die are not just casualties; they, like the driver at fault in the accident or like the manufacturer who designed and produced the vehicle or its parts, are also members of a family, so that their pain and suffering will also be their whole family’s pain and suffering. This is why the federal government never ceases to pass, amend and strictly enforce traffic laws and vehicle safety standards (which manufacturers are legally obliged to comply with) as these are aimed at significantly reducing fatal and injurious accidents on the road.

According to the NHTSA, while drivers are usually the ones at fault during accidents, there is a certain percentage in the total number of car crashes that is due to defective cars or car parts. Now, what’s scary about a defective car or car part is that car owners usually never get to know about the defect until the car or the faulty part actually malfunctions or causes an accident.

For car and car parts manufacturers, ensuring motor vehicle safety is a basic legal responsibility. Under Title 49, Chapter 301, of the United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (this is the recodified version of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966), motor vehicle safety means a motor vehicle’s or motor vehicle part’s performance which, in a way, will protect the public against unreasonable risk of accident, injury or death. A defect, on the other hand, is any flaw in a motor vehicle’s or motor vehicle part’s construction, component or performance.

Some safety-related defects and failure to meet Federal safety standards which that have been reported to the NHTSA (since 1966) include a vehicle’s:

  • Steering wheel suddenly locking while turning or driving along a curve or steering components that suddenly break, resulting to loss of vehicle control;
  • Brake pads remaining partially engaged with the rotors due to the electronic parking brake piston actuation arm’s failure to fully retract;
  • Driver-side airbag suddenly exploding, a defect that has already resulted to more than 100 injuries and seven deaths;
  • Wheels cracking or breaking, resulting in loss of vehicle control;
  • Windshield wiper assemblies failing to operate properly;
  • Wiring system that causes problems, resulting in fire or loss of lighting;
  • Essential parts breaking, falling apart, or separating from the vehicle, causing loss of vehicle control or possible injury to the vehicle’s occupants and/or other motorists; and,
  • Child safety seats found to be with defective buckles, safety belts, or components that can cause injury.

The defects and non-compliance with safety standards mentioned above have, of course, resulted to NHTSA-ordered recalls which, since 1966, have totaled to: more than 390 million mopeds, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, buses, trucks and cars; 42 million child safety seats; 66 million pieces of motor vehicle parts; and, 46 million tires.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which is written and enforced by the NHTSA, lay down the minimum performance requirements for parts (such as its lighting, tires and brakes) that most affect a vehicle’s safe operation, as well as for parts (such as energy absorbing steering columns, child restraints, safety belts, air bags and motorcycle helmets) that are supposed to provide drivers and passengers adequate protection from serious injuries or death (in case of an accident).

As a car accident lawyer would probably mention, making sure that every unit of vehicle or vehicle part produced is safe, lies in the manufacturers’ turf. With the details on vehicle and vehicle part safety standards provided by the FMVSS plus manufacturer’s quality control and vehicle performance tests, it is mind boggling to even consider the possibility of manufacturing defects escaping watchful eyes.

Greed for profit or act of negligence? Whichever it is, the unsuspecting vehicle owner, in the event of an accident, victims have the legal right to pursue justice and compensation for all the damages he/she will be made to suffer.