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Experienced Injury Lawyers

DOJ and Volkswagen to Seek Consolidation of Lawsuits in Detroit

Published on Dec 1, 2015 at 3:04 pm in Auto Product Liability.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Volkswagen have asked a federal court panel to combine all lawsuits against the manufacturer into a single court in Detroit, Michigan.  The panel, known as the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, will hear arguments on the matter in New Orleans on Thursday and a decision from the panel should come shortly thereafter.

Volkswagen is currently responding to lawsuits that have been filed in more than 40 states and likely to be filed in all 50 soon.  The lawsuits stem from the manufacturer’s attempt to get around emissions standards in more nearly 500,000 vehicles by installing software the cheat the tests.  Suits have been filed in Kentucky for Volkswagen owners citing the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act.

Volkswagen to Extend One Thousand Dollar Credit to Owners of Clean Diesel Vehicles

Published on Nov 23, 2015 at 3:44 pm in Auto Product Liability.

In an effort to sweet talk owners into not filing claims, Volkswagen has announced plans to give cash and dealer credit to US owners of its clean diesel vehicles affected by the recent auto emissions cheating scandal.  The company will issue $1000 cards of which half can be spent anywhere and half at Volkswagen and Audi dealerships.  Owners of the 482,000 affected vehicles will also receive free 24-hour road side assistance for three years.

Volkswagen continues to develop a software solution to fix the affected vehicles. The automaker passed initial emissions testing by hiding a sophisticated software program installed on the vehicles that bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of the vehicles’ emission control system that exist to comply with CAA emissions standards.  The results show emission levels for test driving situations, not actual driving scenarios.  Volkswagen is planning a recall to correct the effected existing models.  Model year 2015 vehicles will most likely be fixed with software updates.  Previous model year vehicles will require installation of additional components which will take much longer to bring the vehicles up to regulations.

The repair to bring the vehicles back within US emissions standards will likely hurt performance and fuel mileage, the two main reasons why customers buy the clean diesel engine vehicles.  Volkswagen has already offered a $2000 trade in credit to the owners who wish to trade their vehicle in for a different Volkswagen.  This new $1000 credit is in addition to the trade in offer.

Owners of the vehicles retain the right to sue the company.  There are currently thousands of cases against Volkswagen as a result of the scandal, with customers claiming their cars have dramatically dropped in value.  However, attorneys are warning those who wish to take the $1000 offer from Volkswagen that the automaker may require customers to sign an arbitration clause to get the money.  Many suspect this gesture will be presented to customers as an act of goodwill but is truly an attempt to reduce the number of future lawsuits.  Those eligible to receive the credit are advised to accept it with caution if they plan to bring a case against the automaker in the future.

A Deadly Crash Results in Greater Monitoring of the Safety Requirements for Stretch Limousine Vehicles

Published on Nov 18, 2015 at 11:12 am in Auto Accident, Auto Product Liability.

A recent deadly crash in Long Island of a limousine carrying eight women has brought attention to the modifications of “stretch” limousine vehicles and their inability to provide protection for passengers in side impact crashes.  Federal officials have agreed to investigate limousine accidents and evaluate the safety requirements currently in place to regulate how these vehicles are modified in aftermarket facilities.

The modification requirements for stretch limousine and bus vehicles currently are not specific, leaving great variation in the way these vehicles are transformed once they leave a manufacturer.  For example, some vehicles have three steel reinforcement bars in the side panels, but others, in order to save time and cost, may have only one.  Many vehicles lack basic safety protections, including not enough side impact air bags, rollover bars, and appropriate exits.  Often times the changes made are for superficial reasons, leaving little concern for the safety cost of the change, such as removing a side exit to lengthen the seating area of a vehicle.  When a limo or bus leaves the manufacturing floor it has passed all of the required federal tests necessary to protect drivers and passengers.  However, these same limos are often taken to aftermarket shops where they are stretched, modified, or changed, leaving safety standards at risk and both drivers and passengers in danger.

Since the deadly crash in Long Island, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has been very outspoken about the need for greater safety standards for stretch limousines.  The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has heeded his call and agreed to investigate future limousine accidents as they occur on a case-by-case basis.  This agreement is critical as it lays the groundwork for the NTSB to formally issue safety recommendations for altered stretch limousines.  Combined with already available data, these recommendations can be used to place additional requirements and safeguard on altered stretch limousines.

Stretch limousines are most often used by passengers on monumental occasions, such as weddings, proms, birthdays, and anniversaries.  Many passengers are completely unaware of the risk of traveling in one of these vehicles and what little protection it would actually provide in a crash.  1 in 4 accidents involving stretch limos are side-impacting.  Despite this fact, side airbags and other protections are requirements left absent during the secondary alteration of limousines.  The deadly crash in Long Island was caused by a pick up truck crashing into the side of a stretch limo traveling to Wine Country, killing four women and severely injuring the other four.  Had their vehicle had side airbags, rollover bars, or more bolstering in the doors, the women might have survived.

Passengers of stretch limousine and other special event vehicles should be free to enjoy their exciting life moments without having to worry about the unregulated safety of their transportation.  If you want to learn more about the changes the NTSB is making to increase passenger protection, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.

The Deceit and Pollution of Volkswagen Diesel Engine Vehicles

Published on Oct 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm in Auto Product Liability.

Volkswagen is facing countless potential lawsuits as consumers learn about the deception of the automobile maker concerning their diesel engine vehicles. Since 2008, Volkswagen has sold more than 482,000 vehicles in the United States with altered emissions control systems in their 2.0-liter diesel engines. As many as 11 million vehicles worldwide may have been effected.

The vehicles were found to emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40x the standard level of milligrams per mile when driven normally. Volkswagen passed initial emissions testing by hiding a sophisticated software program installed on the vehicles that bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of the vehicles’ emission control system that exist to comply with CAA emissions standards. The results show emission levels for test driving situations, not actual driving scenarios.

Nitrogen oxides are a class of chemicals that contribute to the formation of lung-damaging ozone, which has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments and to early deaths. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun generates the chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, producing ozone. According to the EPA, exposure to these pollutants has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses that can be serious enough to send people to the hospital. Exposure to ozone has also been associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk for health effects caused by these pollutants. It is estimated that from 2009-2015, the effected Volkswagen vehicles emitted as much as 59,000 tons of nitrogen oxides over the legal limit.

Volkswagen is planning a recall to correct the effected existing models. Model year 2015 vehicles will most likely be fixed with software updates. Previous model year vehicles will require installation of additional components and which will take much longer to bring the vehicles up to regulations. The effected vehicles are identified in the following table and are equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines.

MODEL YEAR
MAKE AND MODEL(S)
2009  VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon
2010  VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon, Audi A3
2011  VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon, Audi A3
2012  VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon, Audi A3, VW Passat
2013  VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon, Audi A3
2014  VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagon, Audi A3, VW Passat
2015   VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Golf Sportwagon, VW Jetta, VW Passat, Audi A3

Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” cars have been polluting the air for up to 40x the federal standard for years. What is worse is that the company knew about it and manufactured and installed devices to hide it. The company’s reputation has been damaged and vehicle value in the markets is plummeting. Consumers who purchased these vehicles deserve to be compensated. If you wish to learn more about the potential cases against Volkswagen, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.

General Motors to Pay $900 Million Settlement for Faulty Ignition Switch Charges

Published on Sep 26, 2015 at 5:52 pm in Auto Product Liability.

General Motors has reached a 900-million-dollar settlement with the U.S. Justice Department settling charges that the company failed to obey federal laws requiring prompt disclosure of safety problems.  The company manufactured faulty ignition switches that were linked to more than 120 deaths, numerous injuries, and massive recalls of affected vehicles.  The ignition switch defect caused small cars to turn off suddenly, cutting off the engine power and disabling the airbags.

The penalty fees are a result, not from the company’s manufacturing of a defective product, but of their delay in reporting the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more than a decade.  The issue was publicly disclosed in early 2014, after which GM created and funded an independently administered fund to examine incident reports and offer settlements to victims.  The fund has approved settlement offers for families of 124 victims who were killed and 275 who were injured.  GM is expected to pay as much as 575 million dollars in private settlements in addition to the 900 million dollars to the Justice Department.

The investigation did not find any one employee at General Motors responsible for the defect, concluding that the problems stemmed from a collective failure at the automaker.  Investigators found that engineers, attorneys, and mid-level corporate executives had neglected to grasp the significance of the matter or simply failed to follow federal guidelines for reporting serious defects.  Following the release of an internal investigation report, GM fired 15 employees linked to the negligence.

The General Motors settlement is widely being compared to the 1.2 billion dollar settlement Toyota paid for covering up defects that caused unintended acceleration in its vehicles.  General Motors is required to pay a dollar amount that is substantially lower than what Toyota paid and for a defect that caused greater harm to its consumers.  General Motors has been cooperative with the proceedings, potentially resulting in this lower settlement.

Automobile makers have a responsibility to report known defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five days of learning of a problem.  Consumers should be able to trust that manufacturers are producing safe products.  The U.S. Justice Department aims to hold companies who violate safety regulations responsible for their wrongdoing.  If you wish to learn more about your rights for driving a safely manufactured vehicle, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.