Emissions Cheating Threatens to Engulf Audi, BMW

As Volkswagen tries to put the Dieselgate scandal in the rearview, there is growing evidence that VW may have been the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diesel emissions cheating.

German carmakers are accused of forming a secret cartel in the 90s.

Der Spiegel magazine reports that Volkswagen and other German carmakers may have colluded on emissions controls in diesel engines. The Spiegel report coincides with Audi, BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler announcing the recall of approximately four million diesel vehicles over excessive nitrous oxide emissions.

In more bad news for VW, upgrades to its European cars designed to bring the vehicles into emissions compliance are reportedly causing performance problems, an issue that experts have long warned could be an unintended consequence of dealer fixes.

After paying California another $154 million in penalties over Dieselgate, Volkswagen’s bill for the scandal reached $1.3 billion in California alone and exceeds $24 billion in the U.S. Additional fines stemming from a new chapter in the diesel saga could prove disastrous for German car brands, which are already under pressure to keep up with an industry shift toward electric vehicles.

Alleged Automaker Collusion Dates Back Decades

German magazine Der Spiegel published a report on July 21 suggesting that German automakers Daimler, BMW, and Volkswagen (including VW brands Audi and Porsche) have been colluding since the 1990s on technology.

The Spiegel report is based on letters sent from VW and Daimler to German antitrust authorities. It claims that in secret meetings, around 200 employees in 60 industry groups discussed their choice of suppliers, price components, and how to meet increasingly stringent diesel emissions criteria. The meetings allegedly “laid the basis” for the VW emissions cheating scandal that broke in 2015.

Since 2006, the manufacturers may have colluded to fix the price of a diesel engine treatment system called AdBlue that uses liquid solution to neutralize a vehicle’s nitrous oxide emissions. Spiegel says that the manufactures talked about the sizing of AdBlue tanks and agreed to limit the size of the tanks.

Volkswagen and Audi admitted in court documents that the smaller tanks require frequent refills to adequately offset emissions, and that rather than inconvenience owners, they programmed vehicles to ration the solution, allowing them to emit excessive nitrous oxides. Daimler and BMW have denied any wrongdoing

European Union antitrust regulators are investigating the cartel allegations. The automakers implicated could face large fines. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into the allegations, but there is no indication of a formal investigation at this time.

Audi, BMW, and Porsche to Modify Millions of Diesels

In the last month, Audi, BMW, Daimler, and Porsche have announced plans to upgrade software on some diesel vehicles to reduce emissions.

The automakers will modify more than four million vehicles, including three million Daimlers, 850,000 Audis, 350,000 BMWs, and 22,000 Porsches. Currently the retrofits cover only vehicles in Europe. But there is speculation that similar fixes will be announced for diesel cars sold in the U.S., where nitrous oxide emissions standards are stricter.

More than four million vehicles are being recalled for emissions repairs.

VW-owned Porsche was the latest German automaker to issue recalls linked to irregular emissions. Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt announced last week the recall of Porsche Cayenne models equipped with 3-liter diesel engines after Porsche said it had discovered potentially illegal emissions software in the vehicles. Affected vehicles allegedly have a “warm up mode” designed to comply with emissions requirements but switch to a different, higher-emissions mode during operation.

Audi and Daimler are under investigation for possible cheating on emissions tests. Daimler was summoned to appear before a German government commission that was set up to investigate Volkswagen’s Dieselgate. German authorities are also investigating Volkswagen’s Audi unit for allegedly using a system designed to evade European emissions rules. A former manager in Audi’s engine development department has been arrested in connection with the investigation.

In the U.S., a VW executive says he will plead guilty to conspiracy as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the emissions cheating scheme.

VW Emissions Repairs Leave Customers Fuming

Auto experts have speculated that repairs to Volkswagen’s polluting diesel vehicles might impact fuel economy and performance, and based on reports out of Europe, these concerns are valid.

According to Automotive News Europe, repairs to roughly 160,000 VW Passat models are being delayed because the proposed software fix results in higher fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. VW said that the delay is to ensure that vehicle noise and CO2 emissions are exactly the same as before the fix.

The European recall of Volkswagens equipped with emissions cheating software began in January. About 8.5 million VWs, Audis, Seats, and Skodas sold in Europe require fixes for nitrous oxide emissions. But in the early going, many of the customers whose cars have been through dealer repairs allege performance issues such as stalling, sputtering, loss of power, lower fuel economy, and difficulty starting. Some say they have incurred repair bills to deal with the problems.

VW denies there is a problem, citing a tiny proportion of complaints among hundreds of thousands of completed repairs.

Under the U.S. Dieselgate settlement, owners of affected VW diesels have until May 2018 to decide whether they want to sell back their cars or receive compensation plus a free emissions fix. Fixes to U.S. Volkswagen models have not yet been approved.

While concerned customers may wish to forego dealer repairs, a report indicates that VW owners in Germany who refuse software updates will have their cars de-registered.

Diesel’s Uncertain Future

The various diesel scandals are hastening the technology’s decline in Europe, the world’s largest diesel market. In the United States, the scandals could be the nail in the diesel car’s coffin.

German automakers for decades spent big on selling “clean diesels” to European drivers, and their efforts paid off: While diesel accounts for a tiny percentage of the U.S. auto market, it accounts for around half of all cars sold in Europe.

But diesel sales are dropping precipitously in the wake of emissions cheating scandals. Diesel market share in Europe is expected to fall from 55 percent in 2012 to just 10 percent in 2025.

Since German carmakers bet on diesel, they lag behind manufacturers that have developed hybrid and electric vehicles to meet stronger greenhouse gas regulations. German manufacturers are struggling to catch up with hybrid and electric leaders like Toyota, General Motors, and Tesla.

Diesel market share in Europe is expected to fall from 55 percent in 2012 to just 10 percent in 2025.

Diesel engines are more efficient than gas engines and produce less CO2, but they emit more carcinogenic nitrogen oxides that are linked to respiratory ailments.

Diesel has never made strong inroads into the U.S. car market, and many believe that Dieselgate spells the death of diesel in this country. However, diesel remains a popular option on pickup trucks and other heavy vehicles because diesel engines produce more torque than gas engines, making them superior for hauling heavy loads and towing. Over 70 percent of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. is moved by diesel trucks that consume 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Stronger emissions standards are likely to accelerate the European shift away from not only diesel, but gasoline as well. France and Britain have announced plans to ban new diesel and gas cars by 2040. Many European cities are also considering bans on older diesels.

But despite the forces aligned against diesel, European automakers have invested heavily in the sector and will likely continue to promote diesel technology as they strive for a managed decline. Motor vehicles are the largest export in Germany—Europe’s largest economy—and Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler are among Germany’s largest employers.

Guardrail Deaths Shatter Families, Spur Lawsuits

Like airbags, guardrails are supposed to protect people in the event of a crash. But as with airbags, a poorly designed guardrail can wind up further injuring passengers—in some cases, fatally.

Lindsay Transportation Systems’ X-LITE guardrail end has now been linked to at least seven deaths in three states: Tennessee (four), Missouri (two), and Virginia (one). The deaths are often grisly, with the guardrail acting as a spear that impales the passenger.

Instead of telescoping—wherein the rails’ parts slide into each other, absorbing the impact of the crash—the X-LITE rails sometimes pierce the vehicle and its occupants.

But Lindsay has denied that the X-LITE guardrail ends have any structural or design flaws. A statement by the president of the company’s infrastructure division, Scott Marion, reads:

For decades, Lindsay Transportation Solutions has made safety our No. 1 priority… It is widely recognized that there are impact conditions that exceed the performance expectations of all safety equipment, and equipment’s inability to singly prevent every tragedy does not indicate a flaw or defect.

But Tennessee isn’t taking any chances. The state will pay about $3.6 million to replace its 1,800 X-LITE guardrail ends. Missouri and Virginia have not ruled out replacing theirs, but have not yet taken that action. There are about 1,000 X-LITE guardrail ends on the road in Virginia.

The families of victims are taking action as well. Several have filed lawsuits against Lindsay Corp. alleging that the guardrail ends were defectively designed.

If you or a loved one were injured by a defective guardrail, contact ClassAction.com right away for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. We are currently pursuing lawsuits against manufacturers, and you pay nothing unless we secure you an award.

Teenager Posthumously Billed for Guardrail That Killed Her

One victim of Tennessee’s X-LITE guardrails, 17-year-old Hannah Eimers, received a bill from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) after her death for nearly $3,000. The bill was for the guardrail that had impaled her.

Ms. Eimers’ father Steven was incensed. “They had the audacity to send us a bill in her name for $3,000 for killing her,” he told news station WVLT.

“Their policy was to leave it on the road, playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”

TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said the bill was a processing error and vowed it would never happen again. He said the department had mailed the Eimers family a follow-up letter apologizing for the mistake.

But an apology won’t bring back Hannah Eimers, who passed away after a crash on Interstate 75 in Tennessee on November 1, 2016.

“TDOT knew this was dangerous and that it wasn’t performing well,” her father said. “They should have removed it, but their policy was to leave it on the road, playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”

Three of the four people who died in Tennessee after hitting X-LITE guardrail ends were aged 21 or younger, including Jacob Davison (18) of Zionville, NC and Lauren Beuttel (21) of Johnson City, TN. (The other was Wilbert Byrd, aged 69, of Detroit.)

Beuttel’s mother, Ladeana Gambill, told CBS News, “To think that she died senselessly—that’s why we want to bring awareness to this issue. So that other folks don’t lose their children in this manner.”

In a letter from TDOT commissioner Joan Schroer to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Tennessee branch, TDOT acknowledged that in some crashes the guardrail ends failed to telescope as they should.

The letter also noted that some unclear X-LITE instructions “may cause installation deficiencies.”

Companies Safety-Test Their Own Guardrails

If these guardrail ends are so dangerous, how did they end up on the road in the first place? Well, the X-LITE rails were tested, but you’ll never guess who did the testing.

That’s right: Lindsay owns the lab (Safe Technologies Inc.) that conducted the safety tests that earned X-LITE its FHWA approval in 2011.

Lindsay says it informed the FHWA that it owned Safe Technologies. The company released a statement in April, which reads, “The X-LITE guardrail terminal successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with federal standards and criteria, and remains qualified for use on America’s roadways.”

Critics say these guardrails need more—and more independent—tests before they are installed on roads; otherwise actual drivers become guinea pigs or crash test dummies.

2016 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “More Robust DOT Oversight of Guardrails and Other Roadside Hardware Could Further Enhance Safety,” concluded that the “FHWA’s oversight of the [crash testing] process does not address potential threats to independence.”

Two-thirds of testing labs evaluate products developed by their own parent organization.

The GAO found that two-thirds (six of nine) testing labs “evaluate products that were developed by employees of the parent organization,” putting their objectivity in serious jeopardy.

The X-LITE guardrails are not the only ones whose testing has been called into question. In June 2015, a federal judge in Texas leveled a $663 million award against Trinity Industries after it allegedly made defective guardrails that could slice through vehicles.

whistleblower named Joshua Harman discovered a 2005 Trinity design change—and flaw—in 2011, which Trinity failed to report to the FHWA as required by law.

Mr. Harman and the U.S. Treasury Department were awarded $525 million as part of that Texas verdict.

Chrysler, BMW Owners Confront Frightening Defects

Car and truck owners may be feeling on-edge after the third straight year of record-setting U.S. vehicle recalls.

While Takata airbags accounted for a disproportionate share of 2016 recalls and became a major news story, a laundry list of issues—from door latches to steering columns to fuel pipes—plagued manufacturers.

Already in 2017, millions of vehicles—including 1.25 million Dodge trucks—have been called back for issues that are in some cases life-threatening.

Auto recalls have hit record numbers for three straight years.

Worse, an outdated recall notification process means that many vehicle problems go unfixed until it’s too late.

A new app from Carfax hopes to better keep owners in the loop about recalls. However, it relies on manufacturers taking formal action when problems arise, something that not all companies are eager to do, as recent BMW car fires demonstrate.

ClassAction.com explores the state of auto recalls in 2017 and explains how owners can be proactive about their family’s safety.

Recalls Reach Record-High (Again) in 2016

Auto manufacturers recalled a record 53.2 million vehicles in 2016. That was up from the previous high of 51.2 million vehicles in 2015, which edged out the 51 million mark set in 2014.

From 2005 to 2013, no more than 20.3 million vehicles were recalled in a single year. (The previous record of 30.8 million vehicles recalls was set in 2004.)

Ballooning recalls are puzzling on the surface because modern cars are safer than ever. Yet car buyers’ rising standards when it comes to safety is one reason why automakers are under greater pressure to respond to problems.

Toyota settled criminal fraud charges with the Department of Justice for $1.2 billion.

Another reason is greater scrutiny following a string of headline-grabbing scandals, including the General Motors ignition-switch defect, Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate,” and Takata’s rupturing airbags.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was criticized for not taking stronger, swifter action against GM for faulty ignition switches linked to 124 deaths. Since then, the agency has stepped up enforcement against automakers with record fines, including a $105 million fine against Fiat Chrysler in 2015 for mishandling safety recalls.

Other government agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also hammered manufacturers. Toyota settled criminal fraud charges with the DOJ for $1.2 billion over its unintended acceleration defect, GM paid the DOJ $900 million, and Volkswagen will pay $1.45 billion to the EPA for alleged Clean Air Act violations.

Consumers have in recent years made manufacturers pay a steep price for undisclosed vehicle flaws as well. Toyota in 2013 agreed to a $1.6 billion class action settlement with owners whose vehicles depreciated as a result of sticking accelerator recalls. GM set aside nearly $600 million for victims affected by ignition switch crashes and could still face additional lawsuits. Volkswagen has agreed to spend up to $10 billion on vehicle buybacks and owner compensation in connection with Dieselgate—the largest auto settlement in history.

With fines and settlements like these against automakers, it’s no wonder that companies are nipping vehicle problems in the bud and issuing recalls faster.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls Ram Trucks

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is on the hot seat again less than two years after its record fine.

FCA announced on May 12 that it is recalling more than one million Ram pickup trucks due to a software glitch that can potentially cause airbag and seat belt failure.

According to Fiat Chrysler, a “significant underbody impact” could cause a sensor to erroneously disable side airbags and seat belt pretensioners, making the safety equipment “unavailable in the event of a vehicle rollover.”

Chrysler has recalled more than one million Ram pickups due to a serious software issue.

Affected vehicles include about one million 2013-2016 Ram 1500 and 2500 pickups and 2014-2016 Ram 3500 pickups sold in the U.S., as well as an additional 259,000 vehicles sold in Canada, Mexico, and the non-NAFTA region.

FCA began an investigation into Ram trucks after the automaker was hit with a lawsuit over alleged airbag failure in a 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 that was involved in a rollover crash.

An illuminated instrument panel warning light indicates that restraint-system function has been disabled. Turning the vehicles ignition switch to “off” and then to “on/run” may restore function.

Starting June 23, dealerships will reprogram computer modules free of charge. Until then, Fiat Chrysler urges owners to follow instruction on their recall notices and stay tuned for more information about scheduling service. Customers with questions may call Fiat Chrysler at (800) 853-1403.

To find out if your Dodge truck is affected, visit NHTSA.gov and enter the vehicle’s VIN number.

Spontaneous BMW Explosions Spark Concern

An ABC News report has uncovered more than forty BMWs that burst into flames while parked.

BMW, which has investigated the fires, denies a widespread problem, noting almost five million BMWs on U.S. roadways and a variety of possible causes unrelated to a product defect. The automaker has issued past recalls over fires.

The fires appear to occur once the car has been shut off, but beyond that the pattern shows large variance. A fire in a 2008 BMW X5 reportedly started just minutes after the vehicle was shut off, while a 2000 BMW appears to have started after the vehicle was parked for several days.

Auto safety expert Sean Kane told ABC that car fires usually occur when vehicles are in operation, but the electronic systems in modern cars never shut off completely, which can pose a fire risk. The NHTSA looked into ABC’s findings and found no evidence of a safety defect.

BMW has paid cash settlements to some owners in exchange for non-disclosure agreements. Critics believe this is BMW’s way of keeping the fires under wraps.

Any BMW owner who has experienced a vehicle fire should report the issue to the NHTSA and contact ClassAction.com for a free legal consultation.

Defects Piling Up in 2017

This year may finally see an end to record vehicle recalls, but that doesn’t mean problems are going away. Here are just a few of the recalls automakers have issued in 2017:

  • VW: 240,000 Audis (fuel pump flange may crack and leak)
  • Tesla: 53,000 vehicles (parking brake)
  • Hyundai, Kia: 1.2 million vehicles (seized engines)
  • Ford: 2017 F-250 (could roll while in park)
  • Ford: 200,000 cars (fire risk, door latches)
  • Mercedes-Benz: 1 million models (fire risk)
  • BMW: 19,000 vehicles (possible fuel vapor leak)
  • Nissan: 56,000 vehicles (power steering hoses may leak, cause a fire)

Honda CRVs, while not yet recalled, are the subject of a class action lawsuit over a noxious smell that fills the vehicles.

The recall parade is certainly worrisome, but equally concerning is the number of unrepaired vehicles. Carfax estimates that there are 63 million vehicles in America that are recalled haven’t been fixed. That works out to 1 out of 4 registered vehicles with unresolved repairs.

Better Recall Notifications Needed

Part of the reason for the shockingly low repair rate is an outdated owner notification system. Recall notices, required to be sent through first-class mail, often end up going unread, disregarded, and/or thrown away.

Used cars, particularly those that have been repeatedly sold and resold, are also problematic because the manufacturer can lose track of who the current owner is. In other cases, someone buys a car used and the previous owner failed to complete recall repairs.

Electronic recall notifications could help to boost repair completion rates.

Delivering notices by mail doesn’t make much sense in a society that increasingly handles its business online. Trying to keep with the times, last year the NHTSA proposed a rule change that would require automakers to additionally use electronic means to notify affected owners. Electronic means would include emails, text messages, social media, and phone calls.

Many automakers have already begun using electronic tools for recall campaigns, but the rule change would mark a seismic policy shift.

Carfax has designed a new app that addresses the recall repair gap. Customers can create a free account and enter their license plate or VIN to check for open recalls.

Open recalls have spiked 34 percent since last year, says Carfax. Vehicles with the highest open recall rate are family-friendly minivans and SUVs. The top five cities with open recalls are Los Angeles, New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Not all vehicle defects result in recalls. Faulty vehicles could entitle owners to compensation through lemon laws, a product liability lawsuit, or another cause of action.

For a full evaluation of your rights as a vehicle owner, or to speak with an attorney, contact ClassAction.com.

Self-Driving Cars Are Almost Here, but Questions Remain

Ready or not, the driverless car era is upon us. And depending on whom you ask, some are more prepared than others to embrace automated vehicles.

Manufacturers—eager to establish themselves as top players in the emerging market—are investing billions of dollars in research and development and spending millions on government lobbying.

States, meanwhile, are rolling out competing autonomous vehicle regulations as they court technology companies and the cash cow potential driverless cars represent.

Disruptions from self-driving and flying cars will be widespread.

But while patchwork state regulations may be useful for finding out the best path forward in the driverless era, comprehensive federal regulations will likely be needed sooner rather than later to avoid state-to-state rule conflicts. At the same time, over-regulating the industry early on could dampen innovation right at the time growth is exploding.

Then there is the public, who, despite assurances that self-driving cars will vastly reduce accidents and lead to a brave new world of on-the-go leisure, expresses reservations about autonomous technology.

Public fear of the driverless car is not unfounded. Many have asked how automated vehicles should respond to the moral dilemma of whether it’s preferable to, say, run down pedestrians in a crosswalk or crash into a tree.

Whichever choice the car makes, it raises another question being hotly contested by lawyers and insurance brokers: who is responsible for the damages?

These are just a few of the issues that self-driving cars pose. As we move into the driverless era, numerous industries will be disrupted in a society that currently revolves around the personal, self-driven vehicle.

Self-driving cars are just the beginning, too. Companies are working on flying cars, which will open up a brand new Pandora’s box of regulatory, infrastructure, and legal questions.

The New Arms Race

Traditional auto manufacturers, newer electric car makers, auto suppliers, and tech companies are battling for supremacy in the emerging self-driving car market.

Navigant Research ranked 18 companies on the cutting-edge of self-driving technology based on criteria that includes vision, go-to market strategy, technology, and product quality.

The companies most likely to get their autonomous cars to market first, according to Navigant, are Ford, General Motors, Renault-Nissan, Daimler, and Volkswagen.

It’s no coincidence that each of the companies in the top-five are auto manufacturers. In fact, only two non-automakers crack Navigant’s top ten.

Navigant explains that car companies, unlike tech companies, have the manufacturing capabilities to mass produce self-driving cars. Navigant expects tech companies to eventually provide auto makers with autonomous technology.

This scenario is already playing out through strategic partnerships between Volvo and Uber, Waymo (Google) and Fiat Chrysler, BMW and Intel, and General Motors and Lyft. Since suppliers already provide auto makers with most of their vehicle parts, these types of partnerships are nothing new. The key difference is that self-driving cars will rely more on technology such as computer processors, cameras, radar, and software.

States Vie for Footholds in Self-Driving Industry

Autonomous vehicles represent a major new market opportunity not only for manufacturers, but for states that want to attract jobs and revenue from the emerging market.

California has long been seen as the most tech-forward state, but the Golden State’s penchant for strong regulations is creating an opening for others to take leadership roles in self-driving cars.

Different states have different claims to the self-driving throne. California’s Silicon Valley is where major tech players are headquartered. Michigan has its auto industry roots. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are home to Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, respectively, two front-running institutions in driverless car research.

For now, states are serving as laboratories in the self-driving car experiment.

Other states, like Virginia, that have no natural industry connections, are seeing the opportunity that autonomous vehicles represent and attracting companies with friendly legislation and rulemaking.

Driverless cars, after all, can only stay on the test track for so long. They must be tested on roads, in real-life traffic, before they can be deemed ready for commercialization.

Virginia makes no bones about its aggressive sales pitch.

“We have no rules that prohibit autonomous vehicles, no law. A lot of states do. That’s intentional that we’re doing that,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne.

California, which is taking a more cautious approach, is working on the country’s most comprehensive self-driving car regulations. The state presumably wants a functioning regulatory system in place before self-driving cars go mainstream, but a potential downside of their strategy is stifling innovation.

California’s approach has “made it more difficult for the industry,” said Stan Caldwell of Carnegie Mellon. “They’re trying to keep it safe. But they can’t keep up with the technology curve.”

For now, a patchwork of state regulations may benefit growth as states compete and the most safe, effective regulatory solutions take shape in jurisdictional laboratories.

Florida, for example, passed legislation making it the first state to allow autonomous vehicles on roadways without a human backup driver, while it is now legal in Michigan to purchase autonomous cars.

Autonomous Vehicles Need Federal Regulations

At some point, the federal government will almost certainly have to impose nationwide self-driving car regulations that set basic performance and safety standards. Otherwise, manufacturers would have to produce vehicles with different standards in accordance with different state laws.

Joseph Okpaku, Lyft’s Vice President of Government Relations, told a congressional committee that “inconsistent and conflicting” state laws create “the worst possible scenario for the growth of autonomous vehicles.”

Federal law preempts state law wherever there is legal overlap. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency traditionally in charge of regulating vehicle performance.

Last September the NHTSA issued guidance that lays out automated vehicle performance guidelines and a 15-point model state policy. But the recommendations are strictly voluntary. They also leave many questions unanswered, such as the open-ended definition of an “operational design domain,” a safety assessment that proposes not allowing autonomous vehicles on public roads until the manufacturer tests under controlled conditions the different traffic and environmental variables the vehicle is likely to encounter.

Ford, GM, Uber, and Tesla poured millions into lobbying the federal government in the first quarter of 2017.

Weather is one operational design domain, although the NHTSA does not mention, for example, if a car intended for use in the South should be equipped to handle the ice and snow of New England. Vehicles also may or may not encounters variables like rock slides, busy pedestrian centers, and wildlife in the road. Should all vehicles be tested and prepared for all conceivable domains? If so, what testing criteria must manufacturers meet to prepare vehicles for these different scenarios?

Such discrepancies could likely be addressed via engineering tweaks for vehicles marketed in different regions. A simple software upgrade might be enough to make a vehicles sold in Arizona ready for a road trip to Alaska. But the broader point is that there are many gray areas to consider when crafting self-driving vehicle regulations.

Making matters even murkier, Elaine Chao, new head of the Transportation Department under President Trump, suggested early in her tenure that the Obama-era guidelines were too restrictive and would be revisited.

But if you follow the money, automakers and tech companies appear confident that federal regulations in some form are on their way. Ford, General Motors, Uber, Tesla, and others poured millions into lobbying the federal government on self-driving car policies in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Lobbying is taking place on the state level as well.

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An Interview with Vince Megna, the Lemon Law King of Wisconsin

Any case from Vince Megna, settle it as soon as possible.

 — Memo from General Motors to its attorneys

***

Vince Megna, the Lemon Law King of Wisconsin, is perhaps the most prolific and successful lemon lawyer in America. Over the past 27 years, he and his team have filed thousands of cases in Wisconsin against carmakers and dealers. They very rarely lose.

“This is an absolute passion for me and my partners. We are all obsessed with this,” he says. “I love this law. I love this work.”

It was love at first sight for Mr. Megna, who tried his first lemon law case against Chrysler in 1990—just one year after selling a guitar store he ran with Daryl Stuermer, a former member of Genesis. (Mr. Megna is a musician in his spare time.) He had a blast, won the case, and things snowballed from there.

He was on “48 Hours” in 1995. He published a book, Bring on Goliath, in 2004. The Washington Post profiled him in 2006. In 2013, after an eight-year battle with Mercedes-Benz, he won the largest lemon law payout in history: $880,000. (He also got a sizable settlement from Tesla in 2014.)

Mr. Megna has long been one of the country’s foremost experts on what is considered a niche practice area among attorneys. He says he has published 36 appellate court opinions and five Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions.

We spoke on the phone last week about the erosion of American consumer rights, why automakers fight, and what everyone should do when buying a car.

(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

***

Wisconsin is kind of a microcosm for what lawmakers are trying to do to consumer rights across the country. What changes has the state made to its laws over the past few years?

The biggest change went into effect in March 2014, when they gutted the lemon laws. So there’s hardly anybody left here in the state who does these cases, which is exactly what Scott Walker and the Republicans wanted.

They cut the statute of limitations in half, from six years to three years. It always was a six-year statute. A lot of people call me after three years, after their warranty is up, because a lot of warranties are three years. But they cut that in half, so they don’t have a case under the lemon law. That’s a big one.

They cut the statute of limitations in half, from six years to three years.

Another thing they did: We had a double damage provision, so if the manufacturer didn’t settle with us within 30 days we got double damages. They took that away, which doesn’t stop us from doing these, but you don’t have the same leverage anymore.

And then they capped the fees in all consumer cases, not just lemon law. All consumer law cases. They capped the fees at three times the amount that the plaintiff gets. That’s very, very dramatic, because we take smaller cases. For example, $5,000 car cases on misrepresentation. We take them and we’ve never lost one of those. But now it’s harder to do with this cap.

If the fees are that low, attorneys feel like it’s not even worth their time to take the case and so the case never happens, right?

Absolutely. Absolutely. You know what will happen—the manufacturers and the dealers will just make you jump through every hoop. Let’s say you’ve got a $5,000 misrepresentation case, and we’re suing under a state law. Alright, when they get our fees up to $15,000, they’re already thinking that they’re at the cap. They will keep going. They have no incentive to settle; they just want to get our fees beyond $15,000, which isn’t that hard to do. And then they’re saying, “Well everything you’re doing, you’re never going to get paid for.” That hasn’t stopped us, but it has stopped a lot of lawyers.

Attorneys have to get paid. If they don’t, there won’t be any attorneys to take these cases.

Attorneys have to get paid. If they don’t, there won’t be any attorneys to take these cases, and the consumer will have nothing. The purpose of the law is to help people. The reason we have fee shifting is so people can afford to go to court, because the attorney will get paid by the manufacturer. If there’s no attorney to take these cases, we’re completely closing the door to all these people.

Do you see a parallel to what Congress is trying to do now with the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the FACT Act, and some of the other proposed bills?

Oh, yeah, sure, it’s similar. Because this drives attorneys out of this business. That’s why we get all the calls now. We always did get a lot of calls, but now we get all of them because nobody’s taking these cases anymore. Attorneys hear all these horror stories about the laws and they’re not even willing to get into it. It’s all designed to stop you. That’s the agenda—to stop consumers from filing cases.

How do you think Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court will impact consumer rights?

It’s definitely not going to help. It’s going to hurt us, because he really leans to the right. That’s what we don’t need. It’s a shame. I believe he’s so corporate-minded that we now have a five-four court. I hear they’re trying to water down Dodd-Frank. They want to get rid of everything that’s consumer-helpful or consumer-friendly.

That’s how it’s going around the country. There are 33 Republican governors, and they’re abolishing these consumer laws step by step, inch by inch. I mean, why? Why? These are just consumers who got screwed by someone. Stripping them of their rights is the wrong thing to do.

They say they’re trying to correct a problem—“frivolous class actions”—that doesn’t seem to exist on a large scale.

Everything the legislators do favors the corporations.

Yeah, there’s not a problem here. They just want to cut down your chances of filing a case. I mean, this is our whole legislature in this state, and this state is not that different than other states like Indiana and Texas. Everything the legislators do favors the corporations, favors the manufacturers, favors the car dealers. Because our state is open for business and it’s better for business if these little guys can’t sue these big dealers in the state. They make it so hard.

Arbitration is running rampant. Most of the car dealers are including it and getting people to sign an arbitration clause, and people don’t read anything and they don’t understand, and they find themselves bound by arbitration. It’s a nightmare.

I don’t think people realize what Congress is doing or what any of these laws mean until one affects them personally.

That’s exactly right.

Why do automakers fight lemon law cases so hard? To them the damages are chump change, and they seem to be in the wrong the vast majority of the time.

It really depends on the automaker. Mercedes—they just love to fight. They either hate me, or they love to fight. It’s the mentality of a few manufacturers, like Toyota fights everything. You file a case against Toyota, you’re going to court. They’re tough; they’re really tough cases. They just fight and fight. I think the reason they do it is they want to set an example: “We’ll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting you.” They’re trying to discourage people from filing these cases.

I really like General Motors, though. They settle the fastest. I have filed over 400 cases against General Motors: We have never lost one case against General Motors. We have never lost a motion, we have never lost an appeal, we have never lost a trial. They’ve won nothing in 27 years.

General Motors settles the fastest.

The last trial we did against General Motors was ten years ago. And the attorney who was in charge of it actually wanted to settle, because it was a really good case for us. One attorney at GM wanted to settle it, but the other one thought they could win. So we go to trial. It was a three-day trial, and it takes only one hour for the jury to come back. One hour, they come back and we get a verdict. This was in November ten years ago. After that trial, the GM attorney reads me this memo from General Motors: “Any case from Vince Megna, settle it as soon as possible.” Honest to God. And they have settled ever since.

But they’re doing the right thing, because the fees aren’t that much when we settle—the fees might be six or eight thousand dollars. These other manufacturers are paying us tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. So General Motors is doing the right thing. People want out of these cars.

What advice would you give to someone buying a car?

First of all, people should start reading what they’re signing. Hardly anybody does. I don’t believe anyone that I know has ever read a motor vehicle purchase contract. But they’ve got to. You’ve got to read and at least look for things that give up your rights, and stop buying all these add-ons when you buy a car. Don’t buy rust-proofing. Some manufacturers, if you buy rust-proofing at the dealer, it voids your warranty if you run into rust problems later.

People should start reading what they’re signing.

When you buy an after-market extended service contract, they can charge anything. They get as much out of you as they can. With the manufacturer’s extended warranty, that at least has a price on it that everybody pays. These after-markets, it’s like the Old West. They can charge whatever they can get out of us.

There’s so much, but reading is important. When buying a car, you should always look for an arbitration clause, and just refuse to sign it. You don’t have to sign that thing. They’ll still sell it to you.

You really need help going to the dealer. It’s rough out there.

What advice would you give to consumers in general?

People have to become aware of what their rights are and what they should be. I also think people have to get beyond, “It’s just about me.” You know, “If I don’t have any car problems, I couldn’t care less.” We have to look to everybody, because everybody’s important. Odds are you’re not going to have a problem, but why should the next guy have to suffer? There are a lot of bad cars out there. Everybody should be aware of this.

We need more people involved in consumer advocacy.

We need laws. We need laws that help us, that help consumers. And the consumer can’t just look at themselves and worry about themselves. We need more people involved in consumer advocacy. I think that’s important.

Is Your Car Among the 63 Million That Were Recalled?

A new Carfax study has found that a jaw-dropping 63 million cars on American roads are recalled vehicles that have not been fixed. That’s a 34 percent increase over the previous year, and certainly a worrisome number for drivers, many of whom may not realize they are behind the wheel of a dangerously defective car.

Sixty-three million cars on American roads are recalled vehicles that have not been fixed.

The rise in unrepaired recalled vehicles is in part a result of the Takata airbag crisis, the largest automotive recall in history. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also been more aggressive in recent years, while automakers like Volkswagen, GM, and BMW have played a major role in the flood of recalls.

The number of auto recalls hit an all-time high in 2015, the second year in a row it had peaked. The numbers are not out yet, but it’s expected that auto recalls crested again in 2016.

File a Lawsuit

Failure to repair the vehicles, meanwhile, seems to stem from some combination of consumers not realizing their car has been recalled—or at the inconvenience of taking the car to the shop and being without it for an extended period of time.

In many cases, the parts required to repair the car are not available and/or there is a long waiting list for them, which makes owners reluctant to take them in. Plus, many automakers are still installing faulty Takata airbags in new cars, while used car dealers do not hesitate to unload a recalled vehicle on an unwitting driver.

In fact, earlier this month the Center for Auto Safety, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group sued the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allowing  used car dealers to claim that recalled vehicles with unrepaired defects are “safe.”

Use the NHTSA’s VIN lookup to see if your vehicle has been recalled, and see The New York Times to learn “How to Buy a Used Car in an Age of Widespread Recalls.”

There are so many recalls these days, it can be hard to keep track of them all. But let’s try.

Airbag Sensor Issue Is Latest Defect to Plague GM

General Motors’s (GM) ignition switch defect prompted a recall of 2.4 million vehicles in 2014, was linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries, and generated many lawsuits, which GM settled in 2016. Now the automaker has an airbag problem.

GM’s ignition switch defect was linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

The airbag sensor in 107,000 GM sports cars—the 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice and 2007-2010 Saturn Sky—can become damaged and disable the front passenger airbag. This means the airbag could not deploy in the event of a crash, but GM says it has not yet received any reports of injuries caused by the defect.

Unfortunately, it also has not yet figured out how to repair these vehicles. GM says it will notify Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky owners once it develops a fix.

BMW Issues Recalls for Dangerous Airbags, CV Joints

Earlier this month, BMW recalled 230,000 3-Series vehicles (model years 2000-2002) because the cars’ airbags could contain dangerously defective Takata parts that were installed as replacements or spare parts. (The cars didn’t originally contain Takata airbag parts.)

A week and a half later, on February 14, BMW announced the recall of 8,752 cars that may have a faulty rear driveshaft constant velocity (CV) joint. The joint can break, causing the car to lose thrust and potentially causing an accident.

Models impacted by this defect include:

  • 2011-2012 135i Coupe, 1 Series M Coupe, and 135i Convertible
  • 2011 Z4 sDrive 35i, 335i, 335d, 335i Coupe, 335is Coupe, 335i Convertible, 335is Convertible, 535i, 535i xDrive, 535i Gran Turismo and 550i xDrive Gran Turismo
  • 2012 740i and 740Li

The recall should begin on or around March 27. After an inspection, BMW dealers will replace the CV joint (if needed) at no charge to owners.

Owners can contact BMW at 1-800-525-7417 if they have questions or concerns about these recalls.

2017 VW Passats Leak Brake Fluid 

A thousand VW Passats may leak brake fluid over time, making it take longer for the car to stop.

On February 15, Volkswagen—still smarting from its Dieselgate scandal—announced a recall of roughly 1,000 cars that may leak brake fluid from the brake lines. These leaks occur slowly over time, but they can lead to reduced efficiency in the brakes and potentially cause accidents, as it may take a car longer to stop than it should.

Passat owners can contact Volkswagen at 1-800-893-5298. The number for this particular recall is 47N3.

If you or a loved one has suffered physical or financial harm because of one of these recalled, defective vehicles, please contact us today to learn your rights. Don’t wait; you may be entitled to compensation.

Volkswagen, Chrysler Owe Billions for Emissions Cheating

A decade-long conspiracy to cheat U.S. emission tests—and drivers—has now cost Volkswagen $22 billion and counting.

VW has reached a $4.3 billion agreement with the Justice Department stemming from its Dieselgate scandal.

In the latest financial blow, the German automaker has reached a $4.3 billion agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which will cover criminal and civil charges stemming from its Dieselgate scandal.

VW equipped almost 600,000 American diesel vehicles with devices that would cheat U.S. emissions tests by showing nitrogen oxide emissions exponentially lower than what the cars would emit on the road.

The devices were discovered in 2014. In September 2015, VW admitted to installing the defeat devices, but not the length or extent of its conspiracy.

Last year, the company reached a $15 billion settlement with owners of 2.0-liter “Clean Diesel” vehicles, and a $1 billion settlement with owners of 3.0-liter vehicles.

Of the $4.3 billion under the terms of the new settlement (which still must receive final approval from a judge), $2.8 billion will serve as a criminal penalty, while $1.5 billion will go to civil lawsuit resolutions.

Hold VW Accountable

VW Cops to Obstruction of Justice

By agreeing to the $4.3 billion deal with the Justice Department, Volkswagen has pled guilty to the following charges:

  • Violating the Clean Air Act
  • Conspiring to defraud the U.S. government
  • Conspiring to defraud American customers
  • Covering up the Dieselgate scheme
  • Obstruction of justice (destroying pertinent records related to the scheme)
  • Supplying false statements when importing these cars to the U.S.

In accepting the deal, VW also agrees to a three-year probationary period.

The company conceded to the Justice Department that the emission-cheating scandal was hatched in May 2006, more than ten years ago. Over the course of that decade, VW concealed and destroyed documents that would have revealed its scheme.

Due to the severity and extent of this cover-up, several Volkswagen executives also face serious charges for their roles in the Dieselgate scandal.

Six VW Execs Charged with Conspiracy and Fraud

A federal grand jury in Michigan has indicted the following six VW officials for carrying out the emissions cheating scheme and defrauding American drivers:

  • Richard Dorenkamp (68)
  • Bernd Gottweis (69)
  • Jens Hadler (50)
  • Heinz-Jakob Neusser (56)
  • Jürgen Peter (59)
  • Oliver Schmidt (48)

The grand jury also indicted the executives for violating the Clean Air Act.

One of the VW officials, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested while vacationing in Miami earlier this month. The other five live in Germany and will presumably stay out of the U.S. in order to avoid being arrested.

The U.S. government has faced criticism in the past for punishing corporations for white-collar crimes, but not the people who run those corporations and perpetrate those crimes. For some, the indictment of several VW executives represented a welcome break in that pattern.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said, “This wasn’t simply the action of some faceless, multinational corporation. This conspiracy involved flesh-and-blood individuals who used their positions within Volkswagen to deceive both regulators and consumers.”

As a result, more charges could be on the way for other VW employees who engaged in the scheme to defraud drivers, the U.S. government, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Fiat Chrysler Allegedly Cheated on Emissions, Too

Late last week, the EPA said that Fiat Chrysler, too, misled regulators with regard to at least 104,000 of its vehicles, namely Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Ram trucks (2014-2016). Like many of VW’s Dieselgate vehicles, these trucks have 3.0-liter diesel engines.

Fiat Chrysler now faces a $4.6 billion fine for failing to disclose emissions software.

Fiat Chrysler now faces a $4.6 billion fine for failing to disclose that these vehicles have software that can switch off emission controls while driving.

The depths of Fiat Chrysler’s scheme are not yet clear. John German, a senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the Irish Times that the cases are “quite different,” adding that “we don’t know how often the emissions controls were shut off.”

The EPA has not yet used the terms “cheat device” or “cheat software,” so it’s possible Fiat Chrysler’s violation was more of an innocent mistake (or just a smaller, less egregious cheat) than VW’s. We won’t know until the EPA and the Justice Department conclude their investigations.

What is clear is that automakers continue to cheat American regulators and drivers, with no regard for their schemes’ impact on the environment—or on people’s wallets.

VW Enters New Mobility Market With Moia Brand

Hoping to put the Dieselgate scandal in its rearview mirror, Volkswagen is focusing less on individual vehicle ownership and investing more in ride-hailing, autonomous driving, and electric cars.

MOIA’s focus is changing urban mobility.

These efforts will take place under Moia, a new standalone mobility services company.

Moia signals VW’s intent to compete with tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Uber as a provider of innovative transport solutions.

Volkswagen officially launched Moia at the Tech Crunch Disrupt technology event in London on December 5.

Moia (a Sanskrit word meaning “magic”) will operate as an independent brand under the VW umbrella, which also includes the brands Audi and Porsche.

Global Aspirations

The Moia brand is VW’s second step away from its traditional vehicle manufacturing business. In May, VW invested $300 million in Gett Inc., a ride-hailing company that operates in more than 100 cities.

Moia’s initial focus is on ride-hailing and on-demand pooling services. It also plans to introduce an electric car as soon as 2021. European pilot projects start in 2017, but Moia eyes an international market.

“Even though not everyone will still own a car in future, Moia can help make everyone a customer of our company in some way or another,” said Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller in a statement.

“We’re a startup with VW group’s resources and we have a global aspiration,” said Moia CEO Ole Harms. “Our sights are set on becoming one of the global top players for mobility services in the medium term.”

Automakers Facing Seismic Industry Changes

An industry that since its inception has focused on selling internal combustion vehicles to individual drivers is under technological assault.

Dieselgate may have been a blessing in disguise for Volkswagen.

Not only is the industry moving towards electric cars with automated features, it’s also facing a future in which drivers themselves are obsolete.

Companies like Uber and Lyft that provide on-demand ride hailing are obviating the need for personal vehicles. Under legal pressure to classify drivers as employees, Uber and Lyft may scrap drivers altogether and introduce driverless taxis. If they do, they’ll have competition from Google and Apple, which are investing heavily in driverless cars. Vehicles from Tesla, Volvo, Ford and other automakers already feature sophisticated automation systems and may be fully automated within a decade.

Volkswagen is a latecomer in this competitive, rapidly-changing, tech-driven environment. Daimler AG, for example, already has a car-sharing service as well as public-transit and cab hailing apps. General Motors is investing $500 million in Lyft and planning an on-demand network of self-driving cars.

While VW brand Audi offers car sharing in San Francisco and Hong Kong and plans to offer self-driving and fully electric cars in 2017 and 2018, overall VW lags behind the competition from an innovation standpoint.

Ironically, Dieselgate may have been a blessing in disguise for the world’s second-largest automaker. The scandal delivered a near-fatal blow to its “Clean Diesel” passenger car campaign, and VW now seeks a strategic revamp as a leaner, more efficient, and future-looking automotive company.

VW recently announced it would lay off 30,000 workers—5 percent of its global workforce—while adding 9,000 new technology positions.

Berlin-based Moia currently employs 50 workers and will have about 200 employees by the end of 2017. Volkswagen intends to generate a substantial share of its revenue from the startup by 2025.

First VW, Now Dodge Accused of Emissions Cheating

As one automaker’s polluting diesel scandal nears an end, another’s is just getting started.

In a major step towards resolving its ongoing diesel emission problems in the United States, Volkswagen recently agreed on a plan addressing 80,000 3.0-liter diesel vehicles.

Meanwhile, Chrysler faces allegations that it rigged Dodge diesel trucks to conceal illegally high emissions.

Owners of affected Volkswagen and Dodge vehicles can contact ClassAction.com to learn how to hold the automakers accountable.

VW Looks to Put Dieselgate in Rearview

Volkswagen, which earlier this year reached a $14.7 billion settlement over polluting 2.0-liter diesel cars, has struck a deal with U.S. regulators that resolves pollution issues in 80,000 Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen 3.0-liter vehicles.

Although not yet official, Reuters reports that the 3.0-liter deal will mirror terms offered in the 2.0-liter settlement, offering owners a buyback or a fix (pending EPA approval).

The pollution problems in 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter Volkswagens are not identical. Smaller, 4-cylinder VWs, including TDI versions of the Golf, Jetta, and Passat, have software that registered permissible nitrous oxide emissions during testing but polluted at levels up to 40 times the legal limit on the road. Larger, 6-cylinder Porsche, Audi and VW cars and SUVs contain an undeclared emissions system that creates pollutants as much as nine times the legal limit.

Owners of 2.0-liter VWs have overwhelmingly opted for vehicle buybacks, an option which also provides a $5,100-$10,000 payment. VW will offer 3.0-liter owners significantly less compensation, say sources briefed on the matter.

Like the 2.0-liter settlement, the 3.0-liter settlement is expected to include billions of dollars in criminal and civil fines. Nearly one-third of the $14.7 billion 2-liter settlement will go toward remediating environmental harm.

Lawsuit Claims That Dodge Diesels Hide Emissions

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) became the first U.S. automaker hit with emissions cheating claims when it was sued by customers alleging their Dodge trucks have deceptively dirty engines.

A lawsuit accuses Dodge of breaking emissions laws and covering up the problem.

According to a lawsuit filed in Detroit, nearly 500,000 Dodge Ram diesel pickups from 2007 – 2012 emit nitrous oxide (NOx) pollutants as much as 14 times higher than the legal limit. Chrysler and its diesel partner Cummins Inc. are accused of concealing from the public an engine feature that does not break down NOx properly, allowing excess gasses to escape.

Not only does the flaw nearly double emissions, the lawsuit claims, it also reduces fuel efficiency and places excessive strain on the catalytic converter.

Chrysler and Cummings are accused of knowing about but not disclosing the engine flaws. The lawsuit says the alleged fraud resulted from the companies’ attempt to get out ahead of a 2001 regulatory change that cracked down on emissions standards for heavy-duty diesel engines. Their aggressive development efforts, owners say, caused the fraudulent design.

“We believe we have uncovered a deeply entrenched scheme,” said a plaintiffs’ lawyer.

Chrysler and Cummins deny any wrongdoing in the case.

Is Diesel Dead?

Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit casts further doubt on the concept of “clean diesel” technology and the reliability of emissions testing. Diesel cars made by Mercedes Benz, Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Fiat, Volvo, Jeep, Mazda, and other automakers have all been accused of emitting significantly more pollution on the road than in the lab.

Diesel vehicles, which get better gas mileage than gasoline vehicles but produce more NOx, are more popular in Europe, where NOx standards are less strict. Only about 5 percent of U.S. passenger vehicles are diesel, compared to 80% in Europe.

The VW emissions cheating scandal (coupled with low gas prices) has fueled speculation that the U.S. market for diesel is dead, except for trucks.

Questions or concerns about a diesel vehicle? Contact ClassAction.com and receive a free case review.

Takata Airbags Claim 11th Victim; 300k Deadly Hondas Remain on Road

A 50-year-old woman killed in a California car crash is the eleventh U.S. victim of exploding Takata airbags, which have now claimed at least 16 lives worldwide.

The victim died driving a 2001 Honda Civic that federal regulators warned in June has airbag inflators with a 50% chance of rupturing during a crash. Despite the warning, less than five percent of the most dangerous Honda vehicles have been repaired.

ClassAction.com urges drivers to check the status of their airbags and to make needed repairs as soon as possible. We also encourage you to get in touch with us and report possible injuries related to a defective Takata airbag.

Hold Takata Accountable

Riverside County Woman Is Latest Casualty

Delia Robles of Riverside County in Southern California was reportedly driving to get a flu shot when she was involved in a fender-bender with a pickup truck.

The victim’s son, who is considering a Takata lawsuit, told a local news station his mother was driving 25 mph at the time of the crash.

“My mom was a very safe driver,” he said. “Seat belt was on, always.”

Ms. Robles’ death is the latest in a string of deadly crashes that has sparked the largest auto recall in U.S. history. Eleven U.S. deaths and 16 deaths worldwide, in addition to hundreds of injuries, are blamed on Takata airbags. The airbags can deploy with excessive force, blowing apart the metal inflator housing and sending ragged shrapnel into occupants’ faces and necks.

Long-term exposure to heat and humidity destabilizes the airbag propellant ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical also used in military-grade explosives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) placed California in “Recall Zone A,” the most vulnerable region.

Honda at Center of Takata Controversy

Thirteen automakers are part of the massive Takata recall, but none has been implicated more severely than Honda.

Of the eleven U.S. deaths linked to Takata airbags, ten have occurred in Hondas. Nine of the eleven deaths have occurred in a small subset of 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles, including the 2001 Honda Civic in which Ms. Robles was killed.

Of the eleven U.S. deaths linked to Takata airbags, ten have occurred in Hondas.

A June 2016 NHTSA safety bulletin reported that 313,000 older Honda and Acura cars have defective airbag inflators that are up to 50% likely to rupture in a crash. NHTSA instructed owners to stop driving them and immediately get repairs.

Four months later, however, just 13,000 (less than 5%) of the specified Honda and Acura cars have been repaired, according to The Detroit News.

Honda says Ms. Robles’ car was included in multiple recalls over the last several years and that it mailed at least 20 recall notices to the car’s registered owners.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) blames Honda for not performing recall repairs quickly enough.

“No responsible automaker should be so slow in repairing defective vehicles where there’s up to a 50 percent chance a driver could be killed or seriously injured if an airbag deploys,” Senator Nelson said.

Honda has the highest overall airbag repair rate of any automaker, at over 45 percent. The worst repair rate belongs to General Motors (0.17%).

Honda says it has parts ready to repair all defective airbags, and that if there is a wait for the replacement part, dealers will offer a loaner or rental car free of charge.

Automakers Have Trouble Tracking Down Owners

Low recall repair completion rates plague the auto industry as a whole. A Forbes report notes that 45 million vehicles recalled from 2013 to 2015 have yet to be brought in for covered repairs.

Used cars such as Ms. Robles’ Honda Civic often slip through the recall cracks.

Part of the problem has to do with the difficulty of tracking down owners in a highly mobile society, especially the owners of older vehicles that have changed hands repeatedly. Used cars under recall bought at new-car dealerships are typically required to be repaired, but not cars bought from used-car dealers.

The New York Times reports that Ms. Robles’ Civic was sold three times at auction before her son purchased it from an acquaintance.

The NHTSA is now considering a rule requiring recall notices to be delivered through email and text messaging. The agency does not have the authority to order recalled vehicles off the road.

To find out whether your vehicle is recalled for any issue, visit safercar.gov and input a VIN number.

For answers or advice about Takata airbags, please contact ClassAction.com.

Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Auto Accident Liability

Self-driving cars are no longer a dream of the future. Although still in its infancy, on-road vehicle automation technology grows by leaps and bounds each year, and governments and private companies agree that the eventual transition to cars without human drivers is all but inevitable.

“Self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality.”

That doesn’t mean the shift to driverless cars will be seamless. Automated vehicles from multiple companies have been involved in accidents, including a deadly Tesla crash in May. There are also numerous questions about privacy, regulation, insurance underwriting, and liability.

A future where software and hardware make more driving decisions could let people off the hook for crashes. But will automakers step up and pay for damages—or will they try and pass the blame to another party?

These are some of the issues ClassAction.com will be keeping a close eye on in the months and years to come as we aim to keep people in the know.

Have a question or complaint about a self-driving vehicle? Please let us know.

The Driverless Future is Now

President Obama recently wrote in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed that, “self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality.”

That reality is seen in the efforts of automakers such as Ford, Volvo, and Tesla—as well as tech companies like Google, Apple, and Uber—to roll out fleets of self-driving cars as soon as 2021.

In the same editorial, Obama announced a White House conference on October 13 in the Steel City to discuss new technologies and innovations. His administration has published a 15-point safety checklist it hopes automakers and tech companies will adopt before self-driving cars hit the road.

The incoming administration could have different policy goals for self-driving cars, but politics aside, the rising tide of autonomous vehicle technology makes it an issue that regulators can’t escape.

A Rush to Market?

Google, the leader in self-driving technology, has been working on autonomous cars since 2009. The company’s car program has already put nearly sixty self-driving vehicles on roads in four states and logged two million miles. Apple is also rumored to be working on its own self-driving car, while Uber and Lyft have plans to introduce driverless taxis. Lyft CEO John Zimmer boldly predicted, “By 2025, private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities.”

SelfDrivingCars1_Blog_720x405

Ford and Volvo plan to mass-produce fully autonomous vehicles by 2021. Cars from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and other makers already feature sophisticated automation systems that can parallel park, follow a lead vehicle at a safe distance, and break to avoid collisions, among other features.

ClassAction.com attorney Mike Morgan, however, cautions that, in their zeal to become self-driving car market leaders, companies may not be focusing enough on big picture safety.

“The most dangerous part of self-driving cars is the rush to market,” said Morgan. “Everyone wants to be first to sell the most cars but the truth is the technology they are using is going to lead to catastrophic results.”

Degrees of Automation

In terms of legal repercussions, the distinction between fully autonomous and semi-autonomous technology is a significant one.

In the former, an automated driving system performs all driving tasks under all conditions. Such vehicles—which are still years away—would not even have a steering wheel.

Semi-autonomous vehicles, on the other hand, require some level of driver engagement, depending on the system capabilities. Tesla Motors Inc.’s Autopilot is a semi-autonomous feature that can control the car in certain conditions. Similar systems are planned for 2017 General Motors and Volvo vehicles as luxury options.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed standards for driving automation levels, ranging from 0 (no automation) to 5 (full automation). Tesla’s Autopilot—blamed for a deadly crash earlier this year—is officially Level 2.

Countdown to the Driverless Future

Experts disagree on when autonomous vehicles will become mainstream. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that there will be 3.5 million self-driving vehicles by 2025, and 4.5 million by 2030, although it cautions that the vehicles will not be fully autonomous.

A majority of autonomous vehicle experts surveyed by technical professional organization IEEE said they expect mass-produced cars to lack steering wheels and gas/brake pedals by 2035.

While a future of self-driving cars seems certain, there are roadblocks to their widespread adoption. The same IIEE survey that asked experts when autonomous cars might be widespread also asked about potential obstacles. Leading responses included legal liability, policymakers, and consumer acceptance.

slack-imgs.com

Tesla Autopilot Mishap Could Spell Legal Trouble

A lawsuit over the deadly Tesla accident in May, in which a man’s autopilot did not recognize a tractor trailer turning in front of his Model S and his car smashed into it, is a strong possibility.

Tesla maintains, “Autopilot is an assist feature. You need to maintain control and responsibility of your vehicle.” But ClassAction.com attorney Andrew Felix counters, “Even the term ‘autopilot’ was used to coerce customers into a false sense of confidence and safety while this technology is still in its infantile stages.”

Tesla has not gone so far as to blame the man for the deadly crash. Should Tesla do so in the context of litigation, several legal arguments would be available to his family. But how they’d apply under the circumstances remains unknown.

“This is all new territory technologically and legally as well,” said Harvard Law School professor John C.P. Goldberg. “There are well established rules of law but how they apply to the scenario and technology will have to be seen.”

Volvo Promises to Assume Accident Liability. Will Others Follow Suit?

In the Tesla example, liability could come down to onboard vehicle log data. But semi-autonomous cars, which need some driver input, are very different from fully autonomous cars that assume little or no driver responsibility.

“Existing liability frameworks are well positioned to address the questions that will arise with autonomous cars.”

Legal experts generally agree that carmakers will assume blame for crashes when a computerized driver completely replaces a human one. For its part, Volvo has promised to assume full accident liability whenever its cars are in autonomous mode.

John Villasenor, a professor at UCLA and author of the paper, “Products Liability and Driverless Cars,” is confident that minor, sensible tweaks to current laws—not broad new liability statutes—will ensure that manufacturers are held accountable. “Existing liability frameworks are well positioned to address the questions that will arise with autonomous cars,” he told IEEE Spectrum.

A Bigger Slice of a Smaller Pie

Although this framework would seem to spawn a mountain of litigation for carmakers, the upshot is that automated technology is expected to drastically decrease accidents, the vast majority of which are caused by human error. After all, automation has already made cars safer. Electronic stability control systems, for example, have saved thousands of lives.

“From the manufacturer’s perspective,” according to tech policy expert and USC professor Bryant Walker Smith, “what they may be looking at is a bigger slice of what we all hope will be a much smaller [liability] pie.”

But what if the driverless technology is forced to make a decision between, say, crashing into a barrier and killing the car’s only occupant, or running over a pedestrian to avoid a crash?

New Age, Age-Old Dilemma

This is the type of scenario a game developed at MIT asks in a variation of the classic “trolley problem” thought experiment, which poses the following moral quandary: a runaway trolley is heading towards five unsuspecting workers. Do you pull a lever, sending the trolley down a different track where there’s only one worker, or do you do nothing and let it kill five?

MIT, in its “Moral Machine” game, presents people with a self-driving car with failed brakes and asks them to make a choice: swerve or stay straight; hit legal pedestrians vs. jaywalkers; hit a boy or an elderly man; etc.

That an autonomous car algorithm might have to make such a life and death decision shows how technology’s intersection with humanity is never black and white—or certain.

Lawmakers Forced to Play Catch-Up

Technology moves faster than the law and ethics.

In the first decades of the 20th century, when the number of cars on roadways exploded, there were no traffic laws, traffic signs, lane lines, or licensing requirements. The speeding vehicles terrified horses and ran over thousands of unaccustomed pedestrians, leading the state of Georgia to classify automobiles as “ferocious animals.”

Slowly, though, as the automobile became a staple of American life, governments figured out sensible legal solutions to the hazards cars were creating. A similar trajectory seems likely in response to whatever unintended consequences self-driving cars bring.

With the speed of technological change these days, the time may not be far off when human-driven cars are as quaint a concept as horse-driven carriages are today. Indeed, given the breakneck pace of innovation, the ink may not be dry on self-driving car legislation before lawmakers are grappling with flying cars.

Through all the changes, count on ClassAction.com to keep you up to speed.

GM, Fiat Chrysler Vehicles Plagued by Defects

A brutal year for the auto industry continued in September as Fiat Chrysler and General Motors (GM) issued airbag recalls, while Fiat Chrysler was hit with lawsuits over Jeep rollaway incidents.

GM also asked federal safety regulators to delay its recall of nearly one million Takata airbags, claiming the airbags do not pose a rupture risk.

Hold Takata Accountable

GM Recalls 4.3 Million Vehicles Over Safety Defects

General Motors announced on September 9 that it will recall 4.3 million vehicles over a software defect that can prevent frontal airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying in a crash. The defect, which increases the risk of injury to the driver and front passenger, is blamed for at least one death and three injuries.

A letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to GM says that “certain driving conditions may cause the sensing and diagnostic module that controls airbag deployment to activate a diagnostic test” which keeps safety equipment from working in the event of a crash.

Affected vehicles include the 2014-2017 Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Spark, GMC Suburban, GMC Sierra, GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, Buick Encore, and Buick Lacrosse. A full list of recalled vehicles is available here.

GM says it will notify owners of the defect and that software updates will be performed free of charge at dealerships.

GM Asks for One-Year Delay on Takata Recall

The issue continues a recent trend of airbag-related issues for GM. In 2014 the automaker recalled more than 2.5 million vehicles over an ignition switch defect that led to airbags not deploying in some crashes. And earlier this year, GM recalled 2.5 million vehicles as part of the massive Takata airbag crisis.

But GM recently filed a request with the NHTSA for a one-year delay of the recall of almost one million Takata airbags, which GM claims are “not currently at risk of rupture.”

Citing “unique design features” that make the airbags in 980,000 pickups and SUVs safer than other Takata airbags, GM has asked that these vehicles not be recalled until the end of 2017, instead of the currently proposed end of 2016. In its NHTSA filing, GM cites internal testing that allegedly showed zero airbag ruptures out of 44,000 deployments.

Through September 9, GM had a Takata airbag repair rate of 0.17%.

Takata airbags, which have been blamed for 14 deaths and more than 150 injuries, are being replaced as part of the largest auto safety recall in U.S. history. Through September 9, GM had a Takata airbag repair rate of 0.17% according to safercar.gov.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.9M Vehicles

Fiat Chrysler will recall 1.9 million vehicles, including 1.4 million U.S. vehicles, for an airbag sensor defect similar to the one plaguing GM vehicles.

The Fiat Chrysler defect involves a control module and front impact sensor that can prevent airbags and seatbelt pretensioners from deploying in some collisions. Fiat Chrysler says it no longer uses the controllers or wire routing design blamed for the defect.

Impacted vehicles include 2010-2014 Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler 200, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Patriot, and Jeep Compass. Recall repairs have not yet been finalized.

“There is a hypersensitivity now in the industry to vehicle safety,” Scott Upham of Valient Market Research told Reuters, adding that there’s “a fine line between telling the bag when to deploy or not” in certain situations.

But as vehicles increasingly rely on sophisticated electronics, there are more and more “fine lines” that can lead to devastating errors.

Fiat Chrysler Faces Jeep Rollover Lawsuits

Anton_Yelchin_2011One such electronic miscue is allegedly responsible for Jeep Grand Cherokees slipping out of gear and rolling over owners. A runaway Jeep killed actor Anton Yelchin at his Los Angeles home in June, and two recent lawsuits claim that Jeeps similarly ran over stopped drivers.

A New Hampshire woman claims that she placed her 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee in “park” and had exited the vehicle with her daughter when it began rolling in reverse down a residential street. As she attempted to stop the Jeep, the vehicle reportedly knocked her face-first to the ground and ran over both her legs. She has filed a lawsuit against Chrysler Fiat, the maker of Jeep.

Another runaway Jeep is alleged to have injured a Virginia grandmother while she was stopped at the end of her driveway placing mail in the mailbox with the Jeep in “park.” After rolling over her feet and ankles, the Jeep crashed into a parked school bus, according to the lawsuit she filed against Fiat Chrysler.

Both women claim Fiat Chrysler failed to warn about the gearshift problem. Jeep rollover lawsuits have also been filed in Colorado and Massachusetts.

Gear Shift Design Linked to Hundreds of Crashes

Fiat Chrysler issued a voluntary recall of more than 800,000 U.S.-sold Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep vehicles equipped with electronic shifters in April 2016 following an NHTSA investigation that concluded the gear shift design is “not intuitive” and could lead to drivers exiting a vehicle that is still in gear.

Electronic gear shifters in these vehicles are tapped into gear, rather than the shifter being moved into a grooved position. Fiat Chrysler said in June that the recalled vehicles are linked to hundreds of crashes and property damage reports, in addition to more than 40 injuries.

A proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of Jeep Grand Cherokee owners accuses Fiat Chrysler of concealing the gear shifter problem and inadequately addressing it through the recall.

To report an airbag malfunction or vehicle that slipped out of gear, get in touch with ClassAction.com.

Takata Airbag Victim: Stephanie Erdman

Stephanie Erdman’s life was changed forever on September 1, 2013. That’s when a car suddenly swerved in front of her 2002 Honda Civic, causing Erdman’s car to collide with the other driver’s.

When her Takata airbag deployed, metal shrapnel shot through the airbag and embedded itself in Erdman’s right eye and neck.

“I was instantly blinded on my right side. And then I felt gushing blood.”

“I was instantly blinded on my right side,” she testified during a November 2014 Senate hearing on Takata airbag defects. “And then I felt gushing blood. It was terrifying. I thought I was going to bleed out.”

Hold Takata Accountable

Erdman Is First Lieutenant in U.S. Air Force

The accident occurred along Highway 98 outside of Destin, Florida. Erdman, a first lieutenant in the United States Air Force, was traveling from nearby Eglin Air Force Base, where she was stationed at the time.

Erdman came to Florida by way of Bexar County, Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Texas system as well as an ROTC graduate. Eglin was one of her first duty stations as a member of the Air Force. There she worked as a compliance and testing officer in the Air Force Testing and Evaluations Command.

Erdman bought her 2002 Civic from a Honda dealership in Bexar County. She was on her way to the grocery store when her Takata airbags exploded on that fateful September afternoon.

Stephanie Erdman gives a statement on Takata airbags to the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee

No Warning About Airbag Defect

Stephanie Erdman’s Civic had characteristics that made it particularly vulnerable to a Takata airbag explosion, but she was completely unaware of the risk. In fact, Erdman had no idea that Takata had even issued a recall.

“They never told me about the recall,” she said. “They never performed the recall repair on my vehicle. And they never warned me about what might happen if my air bag deployed.”

“They never told me about the recall. They never performed the recall repair on my vehicle.”

The vehicle was owned and operated in two states—Texas and Florida—that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers to be in “Zone A,” or high heat and humidity areas.

Moisture and temperature are blamed for degrading the Takata airbag propellant ammonium nitrate, leading to overly forceful deployments that tear the metal airbag housing and spray shrapnel into the cabin.

Long-term exposure to the high heat and humidity typical of Zone A is associated with a higher risk of Takata airbag failure, which is why the NHTSA prioritized the Takata recall for this region.

Erdman’s vehicle also belonged to a subset of Honda and Acura vehicles with Takata inflators that are up to 50% likely to rupture during deployment.

Dealership Repeatedly Failed to Replace Airbags

Erdman couldn’t possibly have known at the time of her September 2013 accident that the airbag in her Civic had a 50/50 chance of a rupture, as the NHTSA did not announce this finding until June 2016.

Yet as Erdman explained to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, she took her Civic to the dealership for service three times  after the dealership received the recall notice for her car. They never replaced the airbags.

Erdman did eventually receive notification directly from Honda about the defective Takata airbag. A message was left on her phone on September 4, 2013—three days after her accident.

Hold Takata Accountable

Erdman Feels Lucky to Be Alive

Since her accident, Stephanie Erdman has undergone multiple surgeries and physical therapy.

“My vision will never be the same,” she told the Senate Committee. “I will never be the same.”

Despite the physical and mental scars, Erdman acknowledges that things could have been a lot worse. The gruesome pictures of her post-accident injuries show Erdman with a piece of metal embedded in her bloodied face. People wonder how she survived the accident. KBB-infographic

“I was one of the lucky ones,” she told CBS News.

Others have not been so lucky. At least 14 people have been killed and more than 150 injured by exploding Takata airbags. These tragic incidents have spawned numerous Takata airbag lawsuits.

Erdman recognized the “many people, along with their families and friends, who have suffered because of these deadly airbags” during her Senate testimony.

In her closing thoughts to the Committee, Erdman, holding back tears, asked that the committee “do everything in its power to make sure that each and every vehicle affected by this defect is made safe.”

Three years after Stephanei Erdman’s airbag nearly killed her, only slightly more than half of recalled Takata airbags have been repaired.

Airbags Turn Fender-Benders into Deadly Crashes

When rescue personnel arrived at the scene of a minor California car accident in 2013, they thought that the driver had been shot in the face.

The following year, police responding to a Florida fender-bender were convinced that the driver’s neck wounds were the result of a stabbing.

In both cases, the source of the gruesome injuries turned out to be not an assailant, but a defective Takata airbag.

“Regardless of how or why your crash happened, Takata and the automobile company are at fault for a defective and deadly airbag.”

ClassAction.com wants to remind drivers that even if they were at fault for an accident, Takata is ultimately responsible for defective airbags that spray metal shrapnel into the cabin when they explode.

“Airbags are intended to save lives—not threaten them,” said Andrew Parker Felix, a Morgan & Morgan products liability attorney who has successfully handled a number of defective Takata airbag cases across the country. “Regardless of how or why your crash happened, Takata and the automobile company are at fault for a defective and deadly airbag that causes cuts or slices from metal shrapnel to the car’s occupants.”

Hold Takata Accountable

Not the Typical Injuries You See From an Airbag

A 51-year-old Orlando woman suffered deeps cuts on her neck that, according to the crash report, “were not consistent with crash injuries.”

No windows were broken in the vehicle that might have caused sharp glass to cut her. It was only after cross-referencing similar crash reports and hitting on the Takata link that investigators concluded the slice wound to her trachea had been caused by metal airbag shrapnel. The Takata airbag had exploded with such force out of the steering column that its shards also sliced off the turn signal lever.

“It’s not the typical injuries you see from an airbag,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia. “It’s the internal parts of the airbag tearing through that caused the injuries.”

Takata airbags are far from typical. Blamed for 14 deaths and hundreds of injuries, Takata airbags are the only airbags that use the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate. The chemical propellant can destabilize in the presence of heat and humidity, leading to forceful airbag deployments that rip open the metal inflator housing, sending shrapnel into the faces, necks, and chests of passengers.

“Even in low-impact crashes, the Takata airbag defect is causing lethal injuries to drivers and passengers,” said products liability attorney Andrew Parker Felix.

Some Drivers Blinded by Shrapnel

Airbag injuries, while not uncommon, usually take the form of blunt trauma as the airbags deploy with such force that they cause bruises, abrasions, sprains, fractures, and concussions.

Takata airbag injuries are categorically different. Victims have reported deep facial or body lacerations that require stitches, as well as scarring to the upper body, arms and legs. Drivers have lost their vision from jagged pieces of metal shrapnel. Shrapnel from a Takata airbag became so deeply embedded in one woman’s breast that it wasn’t discovered until four months later after causing an infection. And the metal shards have even caused death by severed arteries. One woman bled to death in front of her children after airbag shrapnel struck her neck and chest.

Stephanie Erdman was blinded in her right eye by Takata airbag shrapnel

Such injuries are more consistent with the battlefield than the roadway. Takata, however, used ammonium nitrate in its airbags, which is also used to make military explosives and homemade bombs, like the one used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Which begs the question: What is a chemical nearly as powerful as dynamite doing in tens of millions of vehicles?

NYT: Takata Manipulated Data and Cut Corners to Save Money

An investigation by the New York Times reveals that Takata introduced ammonium nitrate to its airbag inflators as a way to save on production costs.

“When we lit it off, it totally destroyed the fixture. It turned it into shrapnel.”

A handful of manufacturers that includes Takata and Swedish-American Autoliv controls the worldwide automotive airbag market. When Takata in the late 1990s hit on a new inflator design that was up to 30 percent cheaper compared to Autoliv’s inflator, Autoliv scientists were tasked with studying the Takata design. Their tests of an ammonium nitrate inflator proved explosive.

“When we lit it off, it totally destroyed the fixture,” one of the scientists told the Times. “It turned it into shrapnel.”

Heat and humidity destabilize ammonium nitrate and make it even more volatile. An airtight inflator is one possible workaround to this problem, but the Times, citing a former Takata engineer, says Takata manipulated test data that showed leaky inflators in order to get the defective airbags to market. The engineer reportedly confronted Takata about the phony results in 2001 and was subsequently fired. Takata first announced the airbag fault in 2013.

You May Have a Case Even if the Accident Was Your Fault

Even if the accident was completely your fault, this does not excuse Takata and automakers from using a defective, dangerous, and explosive airbag design.

Andrew Felix stresses that he’s negotiated settlements for a number of clients injured by Takata airbags who were at fault for their crash.

“If you didn’t pursue a lawsuit because you were texting, intoxicated, asleep behind the wheel, or any other reason having to do with your own fault, you may still be able to bring a claim for the defective Takata airbag,” Felix said.

To find out whether you have a case, contact ClassAction.com for a no-cost, no-obligation case review.

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Takata Airbag Crashes: 2001-2003 Hondas, Acuras Pose Critical Risk

In May 2004 a Takata airbag inflator ruptured in a 2002 Honda Accord in Alabama, sending out metal fragments that injured the driver.

There’s a 50% chance that the airbag inflators in these vehicles will rupture during a crash, putting passengers at risk of serious, potentially fatal injuries.

At the time, Honda and Takata told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the rupture was an anomaly. More than 12 years later, with Takata and Honda at the center of the largest recall in U.S. history, the exploding airbag incident from 2004 has proven to be anything but anomalous.

To date, defective Takata airbags have been blamed for 10 deaths and more than 150 injuries in the United States. Of the 10 U.S. deaths linked to shrapnel-spraying Takata airbags, 9 have occurred in Hondas. And 8 out of the 10 deaths have occurred in a small subset of 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles. Those vehicles are:

  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic
  • 2001-2002 Honda Accord
  • 2002-2003 Acura TL
  • 2002 Honda CR-V
  • 2002 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Acura CL
  • 2003 Honda Pilot

There is a 50% chance that the airbag inflators in these vehicles will rupture during a crash, putting passengers at risk of serious, potentially fatal injuries.

NHTSA is urging owners of these Honda and Acura vehicles to not drive them unless they’re going straight to a dealer for airbag repairs.

If you own one of the vehicles listed above and the airbag deployed for any reason, resulting in cuts or lacerations from airbag shrapnel, you may have a case against Takata and Honda. To learn more, schedule a free case review with ClassAction.com.

Hold Takata Accountable

Takata-Equipped Hondas Still on the Road, Still Causing Deadly Injuries

Honda is the automaker most affected by the Takata recall. Of the fourteen auto manufacturers that have recalled about 28 million inflators in 24 million vehicles, Honda has recalled approximately 12 million inflators in 8.5 million Honda and Acura vehicles.

To its credit, Honda has (as of August 12, 2016) repaired nearly 40% of its vehicles with recalled airbags—better than any other automaker. It has also made a strong effort to notify all affected owners of the recall, using email, social media, phone calls, and targeted advertising in addition to mailed notifications.

But not all customers are getting the message. On March 31, 2016 a Fort Bend County, Texas teenager was killed in a 2002 Honda Civic after running into the car in front of her, triggering a Takata airbag explosion that sent a metal fragment into the side of her neck.

Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Beckworth, who investigated the deadly accident, described the crash as moderate and said it wouldn’t have caused any serious injuries if not for the Takata airbag.

“It’s a crash that we work with every day that everybody walks away from,” Beckworth said.

According to Honda, the 2002 Civic had been recalled numerous times since 2011. The company said recall notices were sent to registered owners, including the current owner, a member of the victim’s family, but repairs were never performed. The family has filed a Takata airbag lawsuit.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said in a statement the young woman’s death “shows that the current recall efforts are just not getting the job done. Takata and the automakers have to step up their efforts to locate, notify, and fix every impacted car as soon as possible—before anyone else dies.”

Nearly two months to the day after the deadly Texas crash, NHTSA issued a safety bulletin addressing the catastrophic failure rate of Takata airbags in certain model-year 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles.

According to NHTSA, a manufacturing defect in the airbag inflators of these cars creates a 50% chance of an inflator rupture during a crash. The vehicles in question were recalled between 2008 and 2011 but NHTSA reported on June 30 that repairs still had not been made to 313,000 vehicles with this dangerous defect.

The chances of a Takata airbag rupture are particularly high in Florida, Texas, Southern California, and other high humidity areas. Humidity can degrade and destabilize the chemical propellant ammonium nitrate (which creates a small explosion that fills air bags in a crash), leading to an excessively forceful explosion that can blow apart the metal airbag inflator and send shrapnel at occupants.

Free Takata Case Review

Ruling Exposes GM to New Ignition Switch Lawsuits

General Motors can’t avoid lawsuits over its deadly ignition switch defect that were previously barred by the company’s 2009 bankruptcy sale, a federal appeals court has ruled, giving new life to hundreds of claims that could be worth up to $10 billion.

“Old GM did nothing, even as it knew that the ignition switch defect impacted consumers.”

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling overturns a lower court decision that the 2009 bankruptcy sale that transformed “Old GM” into “New GM” shielded the automaker from ignition switch lawsuits that arose prior to the restructuring. But GM’s failure to disclose the ignition switch defect prior to bankruptcy led to a dispute about whether victims’ constitutional right to due process had been violated. According to the Second Circuit ruling, the timing of GM’s disclosure denied victims the right to challenge the sale prior to its approval, and thus they can’t be bound by sale order provisions that protect GM from litigation.

“While the desire to move through bankruptcy as expeditiously as possible was laudable, Old GM’s precarious situation and the need for speed did not obviate basic constitutional principles,” said the court. “Due process applies even in a company’s moment of crisis.”

After the court’s decision, previously disallowed ignition switch injury and death claims as well as cases alleging lost vehicle value stemming from the ignition switch recall are back on the table. The total value of the new claims is estimated by the court at $7 to $10 billion. GM has already paid more than $2 billion in connection with the recall scandal, including more than $1 billion to resolve injury and death claims.

Was Bankruptcy an Attempt to Cover up Ignition Switch Flaws?

Some GM plaintiff lawyers believe that Old GM filed for bankruptcy to cover up its knowledge of the ignition switch defects that prompted a 2014 recall of 2.6 million cars.

“The appeals court ruling today solidifies something that we have known from the very beginning of this suit—GM’s bankruptcy filing was a calculated move in its effort to conceal and cover-up its actions,” said one attorney.

File Ignition Switch Lawsuit

The 2nd Circuit Court said that Old GM knew or should have known about the defect, which caused a loss of power and key safety equipment such as airbags. At least 124 deaths and 275 injuries are linked to the faulty part.

“At a minimum, Old GM knew about moving stalls and airbag non-deployments in certain models, and should have revealed those facts in bankruptcy,” the court said.

GM admitted to the Justice Department that it knew of the ignition switch defect since 2005 and hid it from regulators from 2012 to 2014. An internal GM audit shows that the defect was detected by some in the company as early as 2001. GM issued a “technical bulletin” over the issue in 2005 but delayed issuing a recall for nearly a decade. A Wisconsin state trooper correctly linked a fatal 2007 crash to the ignition switch in a Chevy Cobalt and detailed his findings in a report he sent to GM. GM said it did not see the report until 2014.

Decision Could Impact Bellwether Trials

Law360 reports that the Second Circuit ruling could mean additional bellwether cases may need to be added to multidistrict litigation to reflect the influx of previously barred claims.

Bellwether cases are a small group of lawsuits representative of a larger group that are tried first and often help to shape the direction of a multidistrict litigation, or MDL. GM is facing hundreds of MDL claims over injuries and deaths in New York federal court. The company has prevailed in 4 of 6 bellwether trials to this point, but one of the criteria of those bellwethers is that the accident occurred after 2009.

Plaintiffs may now be able to argue that the Second Court’s ruling allowing post-2009 ignition switch crashes makes the trial pool unrepresentative of the overall claims landscape, and that new bellwethers should be added.

If the ruling stands, it could also make GM more prone to settle outstanding cases, rather than risk trial losses.

Was Your Pre-Bankruptcy Ignition Switch Claim Denied? You Might Have a Case.

While the full impact of the Second Court’s ruling on ignition switch claims remains to be seen, victims whose claims were not allowed under the previous bankruptcy protection ruling may now have a second chance at justice.

To learn more, contact ClassAction.com for a free case review.

VW Agrees to Diesel Emission Settlement Worth $14.7 Billion

Volkswagen and U.S. regulators have agreed to a $14.7 billion deal that will attempt to clean up the automaker’s dirty diesel scandal.

VW announced on June 28 that it will spend up to $10 billion to compensate owners of 2.0L TDI vehicles that were rigged to cheat on emissions tests. The diesel vehicles in question, when driven on the road, emit levels of nitrous oxide that exceed U.S. pollution standards.

The settlement provides 475,000 VW and Audi 2.0 TDI owners with the following:

  • A payment worth $5,100 to $10,000 per vehicle (based on car’s age and mileage)
  • The option to have their vehicle repaired for free, or to sell it back to VW

There are a couple of catches, however. For starters, a modification to bring the diesels into compliance with pollution laws has not yet been approved by U.S. authorities. In addition, assuming an appropriate fix is devised, it could affect vehicle performance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will need to approve VW’s emissions modification before the option becomes available. One CARB official said he doesn’t believe VW will be able to completely fix the problem.

Under the proposed agreement, VW will also pay:

  • $2.7 billion into an “environmental remediation fund”
  • $2.0 billion to promote new zero-emissions vehicles in the U.S.
  • $603 million to 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to settle consumer protection claims

A judge must approve the agreement at a July 26 hearing before the settlement program goes into effect.

Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen, is optimistic that the agreement will repair damaged relations with American customers.

“We take our commitment to make things right very seriously and believe these agreement are a significant first step.”

“We take our commitment to make things right very seriously and believe these agreement are a significant first step,” said Müller. “We know that we still have a great deal of work to do to earn back the trust of the American people.”

Volkswagen shocked the world in September 2015 when it admitted to cheating on U.S. emissions tests. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW pulled off the mass deception by using software that could detect testing situations and make the engine run cleaner in the laboratory. Researchers discovered, however, that the TDI diesels emit nitrous oxides at levels up to 40 times the legal limit during real-world driving. This put VW at odds with U.S. pollution laws and left VW consumers fuming over their purchases of vehicles that did not come as advertised.

But assuming that the $14.7 billion settlements gets approved, VW is hardly out of the woods over “Dieselgate.” The Justice Department is gathering evidence for potential criminal charges, and VW still must deal with the overseas fallout of its emissions cheating. Then there is the hit to VW’s credibility with consumers and investors. The company reported a record loss in 2015, while earnings and sales are down in the first quarter of 2016.

Also left to deal with for VW are owner and dealership lawsuits. A lawsuit on behalf of more than 600 U.S. dealers seeks compensation for lost sales. Owners who choose to opt-out of the settlement agreement are eligible to pursue their own cases against the automaker as well.

File a VW Lawsuit

Volkswagen expects that final approval of the settlement agreements will be granted in the fall of 2016 at the earliest. If preliminary approval is granted on July 26, owners and lessees will receive notice via mail providing specific settlement terms and their rights and options moving forward.

Additional information about the claims process is available at www.VWCourtSettlement.com and www.AudiCourtSettlement.com.

Questions About a VW Dieselgate Lawsuit? Contact ClassAction.com.

The proposed VW emissions cheating settlement DOES NOT mean that you can’t seek compensation through a lawsuit. Owners will have the option to exclude themselves from the settlement and pursue legal action against Volkswagen.

To learn more, or to file a lawsuit, schedule a free case review with ClassAction.com.

Recalled Takata Airbags Still Being Used

Automakers have not stopped placing recalled Takata airbag inflators in vehicles. Not only are new vehicles being equipped with defective airbags, but vehicles brought in for repairs are also receiving newer inflators with the same design as the older ones. Millions of these vehicles will be recalled within a couple of years, some for the second time.

According to a Senate Commerce Committee report released on June 1, Toyota, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, and Mitsubishi continue to equip new vehicles with faulty Takata airbags that prompted the largest safety recall in history and are blamed for at least 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries.

Assuming that the airbags are safe—a dangerous assumption, given their association with deaths and injuries—consumers have the right to know about the defective part in their car.

Japanese auto parts supplier Takata is recalling more than 60 million airbag inflators in the United States due to concerns that a combination of heat, humidity, and time can degrade ammonium-nitrate (a compound which helps to inflate the airbag) and lead to excessively forceful airbag deployment that bursts the inflator casing, sending metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants.

Takata is permitted by federal regulators to equip vehicles in production with the defective airbags, but the vehicles will need to be recalled by the end of 2018. An even bigger problem is that automakers are not required to disclose the airbag issue to buyers.

“I find it bizarre on multiple levels,” Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer told the New York Times. “Multiple mainstream automakers essentially know that they are selling cars that already have a defective part in them. And it’s not a defective windshield wiper or sun visor hinge. It’s an airbag, a primary safety device.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that the new ammonium nitrate airbags don’t pose an immediate concern because the issue develops over a period of years. But even assuming that the airbags are safe—a dangerous assumption, given their association with deaths and injuries—consumers have the right to know about the defective part in their car.

“Shouldn’t we at least let the buyer know that they’re going to have an airbag that’s going to be recalled in two years if they’re purchasing a new car?” said Senator Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and author of the Committee’s June 1 report.

File a Takata Lawsuit

Nelson’s comment came as lawmakers questioned Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on June 8 during a Senate hearing. Foxx said that he agreed automakers should disclose whether new cars are equipped with faulty airbags but acknowledged he lacked the authority to make the disclosures a requirement. The Wall Street Journal reports that mandating the disclosures would require renegotiating recall terms with Takata.

Only Volkswagen and Mitsubishi provided any information about models containing recalled airbags. Volkswagen reported that the 2016 Volkswagen CC, 2016 Audi TT, and 2017 Audi R8 are equipped with the part, while Mitsubishi revealed that the 2016 and 2017 i-MiEV electric cars contain the risky airbags.

Toyota said it will produce about 175,000 cars with defective Takata airbags through 2017, but did not name which models are affected. Fiat Chrysler told the Senate committee that one current model uses an ammonium nitrate Takata airbag.

(UPDATE: Responding to Congressional criticism, Toyota announced that the following in production/in stock models are equipped with Takata airbags subject to future recall: 2016 Toyota 4Runner and Lexus GX460; 2015 Lexus IS250C/350C, Scion xB, Lexus GX460, and Toyota 4Runner.)

(UPDATE II: Fiat Chrysler said on June 22 that, by the end of the following week, it will no longer use Takata airbag inflators without protective drying powder in its North American vehicles. The 2016 Jeep Wrangler’s passenger-side inflator will be the final vehicle FCA makes with recalled Takata airbags. The automaker also said it will identify for customers which unsold vehicles have the faulty inflators.)

Faulty Inflators Also Being Placed in Recalled Vehicles

It’s not just new cars that are receiving ticking time bomb Takata airbags. Cars brought in for repairs as part of the massive recall are receiving ammonium nitrate replacement inflators as well—the very same inflators that caused the recall in the first place.

The Senate Commerce Committee report notes that “the majority of the replacement inflators installed in vehicles as of March 2016 are Takata’s ammonium-nitrate inflators.”

Recall completion rates range from .04% to 39.5% among 11 automakers.

Some of these replacement inflators contain a chemical drying agent (dessicant) that is supposed to fix the problem with Takata airbags. But more than 2.1 million replacement inflators installed in U.S. vehicles do not contain the drying agent, and these will need to be recalled by December 31, 2019.

NHTSA is requiring Takata to test the desiccated inflators, which may be recalled in the future if their safety cannot be demonstrated. No ruptures of desiccated inflators have been reported to date.

Part shortages are blamed for the use of defective airbags in new and older vehicles. Takata simply cannot keep up with massive demand for replacement inflators. The use of ammonium nitrate inflators is considered a short term solution.

Recall completion rates, which range from .04% to 39.5% among 11 automakers, remain “unacceptably low” according to Senator Nelson.

Were you or a loved one injured in a crash with a Takata airbag? Have questions about your rights and options? ClassAction.com can help.

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California, Washington & Hawaii Take Fight to Corporations

Individual citizens aren’t the only ones fighting back against corporate irresponsibility.

In separate lawsuits that validate and strengthen thousands of plaintiffs’ cases, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands (a U.S. territory) have sued Takata and Honda over their failure to warn residents of fatally defective Takata airbags.

Likewise, Washington State and California have sued Johnson & Johnson for the company’s misrepresentation of the serious risks inherent in its vaginal mesh implants.

These state lawsuits serve as vindication for the thousands of individuals who have filed personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against Takata, Honda, and Johnson & Johnson.

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For each of these companies, these suits are the latest in a series of blows to its credibility, image, and potentially its financial future.

Takata, in particular, may never recover from its airbag scandal, which has cost at least 13 people their lives (and injured 100 more), cost roughly 77 million Americans their vehicles, and cost the company millions if not billions of dollars.

Johnson & Johnson now faces 35,000 lawsuits over its vaginal mesh implants alone – and tens of thousands more over its talc products and several of its prescription medications. “The Family Company” has paid billions in settlements over the past decade, and will likely owe billions more in the decade to come.

Florida, South Carolina Likely to Follow Hawaii’s Lead

Hawaii was the first state to sue Takata and Honda, but it may not be the last.

The state alleges that Takata covered up a lethal defect and has demanded $10,000 for every affected resident.

Hawaii’s Director of Consumer Protection, Steve Levins, told The New York Times, “We’re not going to sit back and wait for more accidents to happen.” Levins added, “We’re also seeking that consumers be compensated for any losses associated with this incident, whether that’s alternative transportation costs, or a diminished value of their vehicle.”

Because the evidence against Takata is so strong, it stands to reason that other states (in addition to the Virgin Islands) will follow suit and demand accountability on behalf of their citizens.

The airbags are more likely to explode in humid regions like Florida, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico, so these states (and territory) seem the most logical plaintiffs. The defective airbags have also impacted Texas.

The Takata airbag recall grows almost daily. At last count, 77 million cars in America had been recalled.

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Johnson & Johnson’s Mountain of Litigation Grows

Johnson & Johnson’s credibility is eroding rapidly as lawsuits against the company continue to pile up.

In announcing the suit, California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, told reporters that 35,000 women have filed lawsuits against J&J in response to side effects from vaginal mesh implants, including severe pain, sexual dysfunction, urinary dysfunction, and constipation.

Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, said, “For many victims, their health and their quality of life were forever changed as a result of this deception. Sitting upright, lying on their side, walking all became incredibly painful… These women were robbed of their ability to live and work in the way they once did.”

Drug Companies Pay Billions in Settlements

In addition to its vaginal mesh implants and other products, Johnson & Johnson is also facing thousands of lawsuits over its Baby Powder’s links to ovarian cancer.

In February, a Missouri jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million in damages after Ms. Fox passed away from ovarian cancer. Ms. Fox had used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for decades.

In May, a Missouri jury found in favor of Gloria Ristesund, who contracted ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder on her pelvic area for many years. (As a result, Ms. Ristesund had to have a hysterectomy and other surgeries.) The jury awarded Ms. Ristesund $55 million.

J&J’s mountain of litigation also includes lawsuits related to Invega, Risperdal, and Propecia.

From 2006 to 2015, Johnson & Johnson paid $2.82 billion in settlements – the third most over this time after GlaxoSmithKline ($7.62 billion) and Pfizer ($3.46 billion).

If you or a loved one have been injured by a vaginal mesh implant, or by shrapnel from a Takata airbag, contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Volkswagen Reaches Deal over “Dieselgate” Scandal

Volkswagen has announced the preliminary terms of a settlement that will provide owners of illegally polluting diesel cars the option to either sell them back to the automaker or have them repaired at no cost. Owners will additionally receive compensation as part of the deal.

Terms of the settlement, which apply to nearly approximately 480,000 2-liter diesel cars sold in the U.S., were announced last week by California District Judge Charles Breyer, who cautioned that negotiations are not yet final and set a June 21 deadline for the specifics of the proposed deal, according to the Associated Press. Once the paperwork is final, owners will have a chance to comment on the agreement before Breyer signs off on it.

Volkswagen said in a statement that it “intends to compensate its customers fully and to remediate any impact on the environment from excess diesel emissions.”

At this stage, however, there are still more questions than answers about how VW intends to do right by owners stuck with a car that emits nitrous oxide pollutants at up to 40 times the legal limit.

What’s known is that affected VW owners will be able to sell their cars back to the company or get them repaired at VW’s expense. Owners will also receive “substantial compensation,” Judge Breyer says. People who are leasing a VW diesel will be able to cancel their contract without penalty.

Still unknown is the amount owners can expect in a buyback, whether the proposed repairs will reduce vehicle gas mileage and/or performance (and if so, whether owners will be compensated for these outcomes), and when the program will begin. These considerations should be ironed out by Judge Breyers’ June 21 deadline.

Also undecided is the fate of about 90,000 3-liter, six-cylinder VW, Audi, and Porsche diesels that contain the emissions cheating software. Then there are the matters of how much VW will pay in government fines over Dieselgate and what impact the settlement will have on the hundreds of lawsuits VW is facing over the scandal. Some lawsuits, including those filed by state and local governments and Volkswagen dealers, are unlikely to be resolved by the settlement.

Hold VW Accountable

Report: Dieselgate Software Developed at Audi

German newspaper Handelsblatt recently published an investigation that claims to show the emissions cheating software Volkswagen used was developed by Audi, reports Reuters.

The German paper says that engineers at VW’s Audi division developed the software in 1999 but never used it. VW engineers allegedly began to install the software when they could not make U.S. models compliant with stringent nitrous oxide emissions regulations.

As of now, it’s believed that Audi never used the defeat device found in VWs.

Amidst Scandal, VW Executives Take Home Millions in Bonuses

Analysts estimate that the total cost of the diesel emissions scandal for VW will be more than $43 billion. But in a move that should surprise nobody familiar with skyrocketing executive pay, VW executives who were in power when the scandal unfolded received massive bonuses, while workers face layoffs.

Martin Winterkorn, who served as VW’s CEO and board chairman from 2007 to 2015 and resigned shortly after VW admitted to rigging emissions tests, received €16 million ($18 billion) as board chairman in 2014. After Winterkorn stepped down, he demanded that his contract (salary plus bonuses) be honored to the end of 2016. The former top executive, who knew about diesel emissions manipulation since 2014, will receive several million euros, plus entitlements totaling €28 million ($31.5 million).

Another VW executive, Hans Dieter Pötsch, demanded and received a severance payment valued at up to €10 million ($11.3 million) when he left his finance chief post to become the chairman of VW’s supervisory board. Pötsch earned a €7 million ($7.9 million) salary as CFO.

There’s been talk of slashing bonuses for top VW executives as part of the Dieselgate fallout, but a recent BBC report, which says that VW will pay a dozen current and former senior managers $71 million for 2015, shows that this proposal needs to be put into perspective.

In the end, it may turn out that Volkswagen’s workers are the ones who pay the price for Dieselgate in the form of job cuts.

Own a VW Diesel? Get a Free Case Review.

Want to know how the proposed settlement will impact VW diesel emissions lawsuits?

Get in touch with ClassAction.com and get answers to all of your Dieselgate questions.

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Takata Airbag Recall Could Affect 90 Million Vehicles

The Takata airbag recall has now reached the top.

Mark R. Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), says that his family car has joined the ranks of the 29 million recalled American vehicles. But like millions of others, even Mr. Rosekind has to wait (and wait, and wait) for replacement parts to arrive before automakers can repair his wife’s vehicle.

Toyota has now recalled 15 million vehicles.

“I now have that personal experience to be able to deal with it and see how we can push,” Mr. Rosekind told the Associated Press. “It is a source of information that probably typically is not available to an administrator facing something like this.” (Mr. Rosekind declined to identify the make and model of his wife’s car.)

In March, Toyota added 331,000 more vehicles to what is already the largest auto recall in American history. Worldwide, Toyota has now recalled 15 million vehicles—and that might just be the tip of the iceberg.

Incredibly, 90 million more vehicles could be affected by the Takata airbag safety issue, according to auto safety regulators. Senator Bill Nelson (D – Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has taken Mr. Rosekind to task for not recalling every vehicle with an ammonium nitrate airbag. Mr. Nelson has also criticized Mr. Rosekind’s grasp of the Takata issue and relevant data.

The New York Times, which has played a key investigatory role in unraveling the Takata story, has called the airbag snafu “one of the country’s biggest consumer safety problems.” To date, the faulty airbags have caused at least ten deaths and 139 injuries.

Fight Back

Exploding Airbags Fire Shrapnel Into Drivers

Why are Takata airbags so volatile? Because they contain ammonium nitrate, a powerful chemical compound more commonly used as a mining explosive. The ammonium nitrate serves as a propellant, allowing the airbags to deploy in the event of a crash.

Detectives initially considered the incident a homicide due to the stab wounds in her neck.

But in the faulty Takata airbags, the ammonium nitrate becomes unstable, causing the airbags to explode upon deployment. (There is an even greater risk of this happening in humid areas like Florida.) This explosion can break the metal inflators in the airbags and shoot pieces of shrapnel into the vehicle’s cabin, putting drivers and passengers at risk for serious injuries and death.

The injuries are so violent, in fact, that in the case of Hien Tran, detectives initially considered the incident a homicide due to the stab wounds in her neck. It wasn’t until a week later, when they found a letter from Honda in Ms. Tran’s mail, that they realized her Accord’s faulty airbags were responsible for the gashes. Ms. Tran passed away in October 2014—the third of at least ten deaths tied to Takata’s airbags.

“Happy Manipulating!!!”

What makes these deaths even more sickening is that Takata knew its product was flawed, but they concealed and manipulated the data. Internal emails unsealed earlier this year show (among other exchanges) Takata engineer Bob Schubert writing to coworkers, “Happy Manipulating!!!” Mr. Schuberg also talked openly of diverting attention away from poor test results, and trying “to dress it up.”

In August 2009, Honda asked Takata to redesign the airbags without informing U.S. regulators, which suggests they knew the airbags were faulty. Legal experts say this admission could doom them in court.

Hold Takata Accountable

John Kristensen, a Los Angeles-based liability plaintiff lawyer, told CNBC that Honda executives “made a determination of a defect when they asked for the fail-safe design. They had an obligation to tell the government back in 2009. Good luck defending that.”

Takata Penalty Could Be Largest in History

Honda didn’t drop Takata as its airbag provider until November 2015, alleging that the company’s data had been “misrepresented and manipulated.” That same day, the NHTSA echoed the charge and leveled a $70 million penalty against the Japanese supplier. (If Takata fails to comply with NHTSA demands, the fine will nearly triple to $200 million: the largest in the history of the auto industry.)

Takata allegedly knew of its airbag problems as early as 2004.

The New York Times says Takata knew of its airbag problems as early as 2004. And yet, when the first airbag exploded that May, in a 2002 Honda Accord, Takata wrote the incident off as “an anomaly.” The company didn’t acknowledge that millions of its airbags were defective for more than a decade, in May 2015.

In light of the revelation that Takata knew of the dangers, the family of Gurjit Rathore wants to reopen its wrongful death suit against the company. Ms. Rathore died in 2009 after her Honda Accord’s airbag fired shrapnel into her neck and chest. The family settled in 2012 for $3 million, but that was before they knew the whole story.

A Takata spokesperson said the notion of reopening the suit “has no merit.”

Morgan & Morgan Can Help Takata Victims

If you or a loved one has been cut by shrapnel from a Takata airbag, don’t hesitate to fill out a free case evaluation form.

Unfortunately, the list of vehicles affected by the Takata recall continues to grow by the millions. Unwilling to stand by and watch people suffer, Morgan & Morgan is now exploring lawsuits against Takata.

If your vehicle is on the recall list, and you or a loved one was cut by shrapnel after the airbags deployed, you may be able to file a lawsuit against Takata. By doing so, you could collect compensation for any losses stemming from your injuries. These might include medical bills, lost wages, special accommodations (e.g., home healthcare aides), or pain and suffering.

If you are acting on behalf of a loved one who suffered fatal injuries from a Takata airbag, you and your family may be entitled to additional compensation for funeral expenses, loss of companionship or consortium (marital benefits), or loss of support and services.

Morgan & Morgan has a long and successful track record of fighting the powerful, for the people. We will hold Takata accountable for its inexcusable actions the way we did Big Tobacco, against whom we won $90 million in settlements.