August 19, 2011

Calirfornia teen arrest for fatal auto accident

I am disturbed by the story of a recent arrest of a California teen. As a Chicago auto injury attorney, I am all too familiar with the deadly combination of teens, alcohol and reckless driving.

18 year old Ryan Armstrong was driving under the influence when he crashed his car, killing his passenger. According to Officer Robert Lehman of the California Highway Patrol, the Carmel Valley resident was arrested on charges of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter.

Armstrong’s vehicle drifted off of the edge of Tasajara Road, and rolled several times. His passenger, Keenan Lucero, 19, of Carmel, was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle as it flipped. Lucero died at the scene.

Lucero was a well-liked student-athlete at Carmel High School and went on to Chico State University.

Two other passengers suffer minor to major injuries.

This tragedy might serve as a reminder to all about auto safety. I strongly urge my clients to always wear seatbelts when travelling in a vehicle and to be cautious and alert -- not only as a driver, but also as a passenger. The family of Kevin Lucero and other victims of careless drivers have the right to seek justice for their losses, pain, and suffering.

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May 20, 2011

Automakers investigate potential fuel leaks

Honda Motor Company announced this week that it's recalling more than 1,000 Honda Civics in the U.S. because the cars could leak fuel. Many of these 2012 models have not been sold yet, so the repairs will take place while still on the dealer lots. However, Honda will begin to notify customers on May 27, and owners can check the Honda website to determine if their car is affected.

This news comes on the heels of a report that U.S. safety regulators are investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million Ford F-150 trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the steel straps holding up the gas tank can rust and break, creating the potential for a fuel spill and fire. Owners of 1997 through 2001 Ford F-150 pickups should contact their dealer for more information. No injuries have so far been reported.

Fuel leaks and defects related to the fuel distribution system can lead to vehicle fires and have the potential to cause serious injuries. As a Chicago product liability attorney, I recommend that consumers adhere to all product recall warnings, both to prevent injury and to ensure complete economic recovery should an injury occur.

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April 12, 2011

Chicago attorney urges support for new effort aiming to increase global road safety

A promising new global initiative “intended to finance programs that would help reduce worldwide crash casualties was announced on Tuesday in London.” (T. Mohn, NY Times Wheels, 4/12).

The Commission for Global Road Safety has created the Driving Safety Initiative, which is “calling on the automobile industry to play a leading role in improving safety on the world’s roads through voluntary contributions added to the sale price of each new car.” Although consumers may opt out of the voluntary contributions, the vast majority of consumers are expected to be willing to contribute the equivalent of about two dollars. Bela Dinh-Zarr, the North American director of Make Roads safe, urges consumers to participate in this important cause because “it’s just $2, less than a cup of coffee, but could help buy a helmet for a child in some countries.”

According to the Commission’s chairman, Lord George Robertson, “car manufacturers and dealers can play an important, visible and positive role in saving lives and preventing disability, and we encourage them to support our proposal for a safety levy.” As a Chicago car and truck accident attorney, I join him in urging car manufacturers to take on this important task to make the roads all around the world safer.

The Driving Safety Initiative is “modeled on similar voluntary fundraising efforts for other public health epidemics, like Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign for cancer,” and the initiative is part of the United Actions Decade of Action for Road Safety, which begins on May 11, 2011. As a Chicago personal injury attorney, I fully support this important initiative.

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March 21, 2011

Honda recalling new Civics due to fuel leakage

Honda Motor Co. is “recalling new models of the Honda Civic to prevent fuel from leaking from the car's fuel tank.” (Washington AP, 3/17). The recall targets approximately 18,000 2011 Model year.

Honda says the issue surrounds “a plastic case that covers a valve in the fuel pump module could break or crack.” This can potentially lead to a fuel leak in a roll-over crash, which could cause a fire. .

As a Chicago personal injury lawyer, I encourage all consumers to stay up to date on recalls and to act quickly when their vehicles are affected. This recall is expected to begin in April. Affected consumers should take their vehicles to Honda dealers who will inspect the fuel pump module and replace it if necessary at no cost.

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March 14, 2011

VW to recall minivans for stalling problem

Volkswagen is “recalling 12,600 minivans because the ignition key could move while driving and cause the engine to shut off.” (Detroit AP, 3/10).

The recalls, which are scheduled to begin in April, follow a similar Chrysler recall, the company that makes the vans for Volkswagen. The Chrysler recall was in response to 32 customer complaints and at least two accidents.

VW says “the ignition key in Routan minivans from the 2010 model year can move from the run to accessory position on its own, turning off the engine. VW estimates that 378 of the vans have defective ignition switches.”

As a Chicago car and truck accident lawyer, I always encourage consumers to maintain awareness about vehicle recalls and safety issues, and to make sure their vehicles are fixed quickly.

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March 4, 2011

Chrysler recalling vehicles over engine stall

Chrysler is recalling “about 250,000 vehicles to fix potential engine stalling.” (Washington, AP, 3/3). The auto manufacturer says the recall affects 2010 Dodge Grand Caravans, Chrysler Town & Country Minivans, and 2010 Dodge Journey Crossovers.

The recall is in response to reports that “the ignition key could move while driving and cause the engine to shut off.” Chrysler says this defect increases the risk of a crash. To date, the government has received 32 complaints, two of which resulted in crashed.
Although the recall is expected to begin in April, owners can contact Chrysler at (800) 853-1403.

As a Chicago area car and truck accident attorney, I urge all consumers to stay up to date on vehicle recalls and to have their vehicles repaired promptly.

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February 28, 2011

Ford to recall F-150 pickups over air bags

Ford Motor Co. says it “will recall nearly 150,000 F-150 pickup trucks to fix air bags that could deploy without warning.” (K. Thomas, AP, 2/23). The recall follows concerns raised by the government about the air bag issue.

Ford calls the risk of air bags deploying “relatively low,” and said the recall affects trucks from the 2005-2006 model years. However, the vehicles being recalled currently are much less than the government suggested as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Ford that the recall should cover over 1 million trucks from the 2004-2006 model years. So far, dozens have been injured.

As a Chicago car and truck accident lawyer, I am concerned that this recall is not expansive enough and drivers are still at risk. For those consumers whose vehicles are part of the current recall, please have the issue fixed quickly.

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February 22, 2011

GM recalling Cadillac CTS over vehicle handling

General Motors says it is recalling “more than 50,000 Cadillac CTS vehicles worldwide to fix a loose joint that could cause a rear wheel to become unstable, making it hard for drivers to steer.” (Washington AP, 2/17). Of those vehicles recalled, the majority are located in the United States. The recall targets Cadillac CTS vehicles from the 2009 and 2010 model ears.

GM maintains that the recall is precautionary and no injuries have been reported. The danger of the defect is the potential for a sudden change in the steering and handling of the Cadillac CTS, which could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

As a Chicago personal injury lawyer, I always encourage all Cadillac CTS owners to act promptly and address these issues, especially since steering issues are especially serious. GM says owners may call 866-982-2339 for additional information. Similarly, the NHTSA website is always a good source of information.

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January 31, 2011

Side air bags to be improved to protect motorists

New cars and trucks will “have larger and stronger side air bags to prevent motorists from being tossed out of their vehicles in rollover crashes.” (K Thomas, AP, 1/31).

The Transportation Department says the new requirements aim to protect motorists in rollovers as more than 8,000 people were killed in rollovers in 2009. As a car and truck accident attorney, I am excited about the Transportation Department’s prediction that “the changes to the air bags are expected to prevent nearly 400 deaths and nearly 500 serious injuries every year.”

Car manufactures will phase in the changes beginning in 2013 and all new cars must have the new air bags by 2018.

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January 17, 2011

Chrysler recalls trucks and SUVs

Chrysler recently recalled “nearly 150,000 trucks and SUVs to address several problems, including steering, air bag issues and the potential for trucks to stall.” (Washington AP, 12/30).

In order to address these issues, “Chrysler is conducting three separate recalls to fix the problems. The first one covers about 22,000 Dodge Ram trucks from the 2008-2011 model years to address steering problems. The second involves about 65,000 2009 model year Dodge Journey SUVs to fix side air bags that might not deploy. The last includes about 57,000 Dodge Ram 1500 trucks from the 2011 model year to fix components in rear axles that could cause the trucks to stall.” Chrysler has also set up a hot line where owners with questions can call - (800) 853-1403. As always, the National Highway Safety Administration website is a reliable source of recall information.

As a Chicago personal injury attorney, I encourage all consumers to stay up to date on recalled vehicles and have their vehicles fixed quickly to avoid preventable injuries.

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December 28, 2010

GM recalls almost 100,000 vehicles due to 2 issues

General Motors Co. is recalling nearly 100,000 vehicles “to fix two problems that could cause the rear axle to lock and the passenger-side airbag not to work.” (NY AP, 12/23). The airbag recall affects 2005 to 2007 model year Cadillac CTS. The axle recall affects the 2011 model year versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Silverado 1500.

As a personal injury attorney in Chicago, I urge all GM consumers to determine if their vehicles are affected. A defective airbag is an especially serious issue that has the potential to lead to many unnecessary serious injuries and even deaths. Please act quickly if your vehicles are affected.

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December 20, 2010

Honda recalls 1.35 million Fit subcompacts

Honda Motor Co. says it is “recalling 1.35 million Fit subcompact cars globally to fix defective wiring in the headlights.” (Tokyo AP, 12/16). The recall will affect just shy of 150,000 cars in the United States, as well as over 700,000 cars in Japan. Honda has not released numbers for the European and Asian recalls, and say not accidents have resulted from the recall.

Chrysler and Volkswagen also issued large recalls. The Chrysler recall affects the 2008 Town and Country and Dodge Caravan minivans because of a leak near the heating and air conditioner. Volkswagen says its recall affects “2007-2009 model year Golf, Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, Rabbit and 2006-2010 New Beetle small cars [due to a] small plastic tab in the windshield wiper fluid reservoir could rub against a fuel supply line under the hood. A fuel leak could develop and lead to fires.” (Washington AP, 12/15).

As a Chicago car and truck accident lawyer, I always encourage consumers to act quickly on recalled vehicles. Especially during this holiday season, when long road trips are common, please ensure your vehicles are safe.

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December 5, 2010

Gov't offers new rules for rear visibility in cars

The government is proposing new rules aimed at “improving rear visibility standards for cars.” (K. Thomas, AP Washington, 12/3). These new regulations may make rear view cameras more common in future vehicles to address concerns about children being inadvertently struck by drivers backing up.

Most carmakers plan to meet the new requirements by installing rear view video cameras with corresponding in-vehicle displays. The regulations may be phased in as early as the 2013-14 model years.

The government estimates “nearly 300 people are killed and 18,000 injured each year because of backovers. Nearly half the deaths involve children under age 5.” As a , I fully support the new government regulations. Safety, especially when it involves children, is paramount.

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November 29, 2010

N.H.T.S.A. Opens Audit of Rental Car Repairs

As a Chicago lawyer with auto accident and products liability experience, I am appalled that rental car agencies failed to fix recalled vehicles in a timely manner. I am hopeful that this will never happen again, and the rental car companies will be held responsible for their carelessness.

Citing troubling reports of injuries and deaths in rental cars, “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun investigating whether millions of rental cars are being fixed when they are recalled for safety problems.” (C. Jensen, 11/23, NY Times blog Wheels).

The agency opened the investigation to audit the recall remedy chosen by rental car companies. Some have accused the rental car agencies of waiting too late, until it was convenient for them, to issue the necessary recalls. The NTSHA has asked Chrysler, Ford and General Motors to aid them in the investigation. This follows a tragedy this year where Enterprise “admitted in a California court that its failure to fix a Chrysler PT Cruiser was responsible for the deaths of two California women when it caught fire and crashed.”

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November 20, 2010

Toyota seeks to dismiss acceleration lawsuits

A federal judge in California “will consider a motion by Toyota Motor Corp. to dismiss lawsuits that claim there are sudden acceleration defects in its cars.” (AP Santa Anna, California, 11/19). This hearing is in the wake of a fatal crash in Utah, likely due to a faulty Toyota Camry.

Toyota seeks to have hundreds of class action lawsuits dismissed arguing “the plaintiffs have been unable to prove that a design defect, namely its electronic throttle control system, is responsible for sudden acceleration problems.”

As a personal injury and products liability attorney in Chicago with experience in auto accidents, I am hopeful that the federal judge will allow the suit to continue and allow the plaintiffs to prove the design defect. A motion to dismiss is appropriate only where the plaintiff has plead no facts upon which relief can be granted.

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November 20, 2010

Feds say all motorcycle riders should wear helmets, and Illinois is one of three states with no requirement

Federal safety officials “want states to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, citing a surge in deaths since the late 1990s.” (J.Lowy, Washington AP, 11/16). The National Transportation Safety Board says that while overall traffic fatalities have decline, motorcycle deaths have increased over the last decade. According to the NTSB, there were “4,400 motorcycle deaths in the U.S. last year, more than in all aviation, rail, marine and pipeline accidents combined.”

Considering that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, the NTSB wants all states to require helmet use. Currently, 20 states require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, and the majority of states have limited helmet requirements. However, Iowa, Illinois and Vermont have no helmet requirement.

As a Chicago car and truck accident lawyer, I strongly urge all motorcycle users to wear helmets to safeguard against head injuries, and join the NTSB in wanting all states to require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

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October 31, 2010

Nissan recalls 2 million vehicles worldwide

Nissan is recalling “2.14 million vehicles in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Asia, including the popular March and Mycra subcompacts, for an ignition problem that may stall the engine - its third-largest recall ever.” (Tokyo AP, 10/28).

Although, according to Nissan, no accidents caused by the defect have been reported, Nissan has decided to address the problem before unnecessary accidents occur.
A problem was found “in an ignition-system part called the relay for vehicles produced from August 2003 through July 2006, including small cars like the March, Cube and Note, and about a dozen other models, such as the Tiida sedan, Titan pickup and Infiniti QX56 luxury model.” In the most extreme cases, the engine will stall and not restart.

As a Chicago car and truck accident attorney, I always urge Nissan consumers to act quickly if their vehicles are affected. The dealer will replace the defective parts free of charge, and vehicle safety is critical.

Continue reading "Nissan recalls 2 million vehicles worldwide" »

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October 24, 2010

Chrysler to recall 26,000 vehicles for fluid leak

Chrysler is recalling “about 26,000 cars and pickup trucks because power steering fluid can leak onto a hot engine and cause a fire.” (Detroit AP, 10/20).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the recall includes both 2010 models of the Chrysler 300 and Chrysler Sebring, the Dodge Avenger, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Journey, as well as the 2011 Dodge Ram pickup trucks.

NHTSA said this week that the source of the problem is that a “power steering hose assembly can separate at the crimped end and leak fluid onto the engine.” Dealers will inspect recalled vehicles and replace the defective hoses free of charge. Any owners with questions may contact Chrysler via phone at 1-800-853-1403, and, as always, the NHTSA website is a great resource for keeping up to date on recalls.

As a Chicago area car and truck accident lawyer, I urge consumers to keep current on vehicle recalls and act quickly if their vehicles are affected.

Continue reading "Chrysler to recall 26,000 vehicles for fluid leak" »

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October 18, 2010

GM recalls 300,000 Impalas because of Seatbelt Issue

General Motors announced last week that it is “recalling more than 300,000 Chevrolet Impala sedans because the seat belts may fail to restrain people in the front seats during a crash.” (AP Detroit, 10/15).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the issue with the seatbelts is the front seat belt webbing, which may not be secured adequately to the lap belt anchor on the side of the seat nearest to the doors. These defective seat belts may not sufficiently protect drivers and passengers in the event of a collision.

The recall affects Impalas from the 2009 and 2010 model years, and Dealers will inspect, free of charge, the seat belts, the seat belt anchoring, and will install additional anchors as needed.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I strongly encourage all Impala owners to take action immediately. Seatbelts can be life savers, and it is not worth risking driving with a defective seatbelt.

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October 8, 2010

Tesla Recalling 439 Roadsters for Fire Hazard

Tesla Motors announced recently that it is “recalling 439 of its electric sports cars because of a possible fire hazard involving the 12-volt electrical system.” (10/6, NY Times Wheels, C Jensen). However, the automaker has told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the defect does not effect the “electric drive main power system” that moves the vehicle. Recalled models include the 2010 Roadster 2.0 and Roadster 2.5 with “a 12 volt auxiliary cable.”

The problem lies with the use of “a small lead acid battery as a backup power source to the vehicle’s main electrical system.” The automaker learned of the problem in August 29 when a customer called and reported smoke and possibly a in the right front corner of his vehicle. This was the only incident reported, and Tesla claims it began investigating immediately.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I encourage all consumers to stay up to date on recalls, and to act swiftly when one of their vehicles is affected.

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September 26, 2010

Hyundai Recalls 139,500 of Its 2011 Sonatas for Steering Defect

Hyundai is recalling “about 139,500 of its new 2011 Sonatas because of a steering defect that could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” (C. Jensen, NY Times Wheels, 9/26). The recall affects all Sonatas manufactured in Montgomery, AL from December 11, 2009 through September 10, 2010.

The recall is a major blow to the Korean Manufacturer, which was hoping to capitalize on those consumers who became weary of Toyota vehicles after Toyota’s recalling fiasco earlier this year. Hyundai executives were hoping the Sonata would become a serious competitor with the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.

The NHTSA says the issue arose because the “intermediate shaft universal joint connections may have been either improperly assembled or insufficiently tightened.” As a result of the apparent manufacturing defect, “the driver could experience a loss of or reduction in steering capability increasing the risk of a crash.”

As a car and truck accident attorney, I always encourage consumers to stay informed about recalls affecting their vehicles and to act swiftly to remedy any safety issues.

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September 19, 2010

School Buses Recalled by Thomas Built Buses

For the second time this month, “Thomas Built Buses is recalling school buses for a safety problem.” (C. Jensen, NY Times Wheels, 9/17). The latest recall suggests that the company apparently waited several months before officially disclosing the safety problems to the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration. This is problematic because “under federal regulations, a manufacturer has five business days to notify the safety agency after discovering a safety defect.”

However, a spokeswoman for the bus company denied any delay in an e0mail, and further stated that the company has and plans to continue to “fully comply” with federal safety regulations and procedures.

Most recently, “almost 1,200 buses were recalled because an electrical problem could cause stalling or a malfunction of the headlights or windshield wipers.” The affected model is the 2009-11 MVP-EF models.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I hope all school districts utilizing these buses are taking swift actions to ensure the safety of their students.

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August 29, 2010

US steps up scrutiny into stalling Corolla cars

The U.S. government has “beefed up its investigation into Toyota's Corolla and Matrix vehicles because of a possible engine defect that might can cause them to stall.” (Y. Kageyama, AP Business, 8/24).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was “raising its preliminary evaluation to a more serious scrutiny called an engineering analysis to look into the problems that could cause the engine to stall, not start or to shift gear harshly.” This investigation includes the 2005, 2006, and 2007 model years of the Corolla and Corolla Matrix.

Toyota is battling to patch up its reputation after recalling some 10 million vehicles around the world since October last year for a range of defects in floor mats, gas pedals and braking software.

Toyota is continuing to feel the repercussions to its reputation after a recall of over 10 million vehicles worldwide for a variety of problems with braking software, gas pedals, and floor mats. Yet, another problem with a top-selling model like the Corolla, “would be a further embarrassment for the world's top automaker, which long prided itself on impeccable quality controls.”

At this time, it is unclear whether a recall will be necessary. As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicago, I once again urge Toyota consumers to ensure their vehicles are safe to drive.

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August 25, 2010

GM recalls 250K vehicles; seat belts may not latch

General Motors is recalling “nearly 250,000 crossover vehicles worldwide to inspect second-row seat belts that could be damaged and not latch.” (Ken Thomas, AP Washington, 8/17) The recall included the 2009 to 2010 models of the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook, and the Buick Enclave.

The issue prompting the recall regards potential damage to the seat belt buckle when the seat back is returned to an upright position. This damage could make the buckle appear to be securely latched when it is not. The automaker says it is not aware of the seatbelts performing improperly in a crash test.

As a personal injury attorney, I am a huge advocate for seat belt usage. If your vehicle is on the recall list, please ensure that your seatbelts are functioning properly as soon as possible.

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August 4, 2010

Nissan Recalling Cubes for Fuel Leak

After a rear-impact crash test that revealed some startling news, Nissan is recalling over 45,000 2009-10 Cubes. (C. Jensen, NY Times, 7/30). The crash test, which was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, discovered some gasoline leakage upon rear impact, which is a violation of a federal safety standard.

Nissan released a statement asserting that it was unaware of the problem, and that when similar tests were conducted during development of the Cube, gas leaking was not an issue. However, Nissan plans to install “a special protector” on the recalled vehicles, which it says should remedy the problem.

Although automakers perform their own tests to ensure their vehicles comply with federal safety regulations, the N.H.T.S.A. also performs spot tests on vehicles to double check. The issue with the Nissan Cube was discovered during a spot test.

As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicago, I am thankful that the N.H.T.S.A caught this problem in its spot tests. As always, I encourage all car owners to keep up to date on recalls and to remedy any issues as quickly as possible. The N.H.T.S.A website is a good resource for information pertaining to recalls.

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August 4, 2010

New Toyota Recall Involves About 400,000 Vehicles

In its latest recall, Toyota said last week “Thursday that it was recalling almost 373,000 of its 2000-4 Avalon sedans because of a steering problem that could cause a crash.” (C.Jensen, NY Times, 7/29). On top of the Avalon recall, Toyota is additionally recalling nearly 40,000 Lexus LX470 SUV’s for another steering defect.

The recall follows at least six complaints in the United States of a steering problem. Toyota received reports of at least three minor accidents, and, fortunately, no major injuries. According to documents Toyota filed with the National Highway and Safety Administration, the automaker has been investigating the steering problem since October 2007. Toyota, however, insists that it was not until early this year they confirmed the steering problem was severe enough to require a recall.

Unfortunately for Toyota, but perhaps not surprising, “the length and timing of Toyota’s handling of the Avalon defect may interest federal safety officials. In May the safety agency began an investigation into whether Toyota improperly delayed a 2005 recall of almost one million 1989-1998 model Toyota trucks.” As federal regulations “require automakers to notify the safety agency within five days of learning of a defect,” Toyota may face repercussions.

As a car and truck accident attorney, I am not once again disappointed in Toyota’s apparent lackadaisical attitude to defects in its products. I encourage Toyota owners to act quickly to have their vehicles fixed.

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July 20, 2010

Serious Burn Leads to Recall of Vehicles for Children

The Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that Baja Motorsports of Phoenix is recalling over 300,000 go-karts and minibikes designed for use by children. Nine complaints that the gas caps detached or leaked, and one serious burn injury lead to the recall. (NY Times, C.Jensen, 7/16). The CPSC further released information of 25 reports of the accelerator-throttle sticking.

The agency said the recall was for minibikes with model numbers beginning with HT65, MB165, WR65, MB196, DB30, WR90 and DR90. The recalled go-karts have model numbers BB65, SD65, DN65 and TR65. Model numbers “can be found on the go-cart roll cage and fender or ‘decorative fuel tank’ of the minibikes.”

As a products liability attorney, I urge parents to discontinue their children’s use of these products and follow the recall instructions immediately so as to avoid further and unnecessary injuries.

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July 8, 2010

Toyota knew about Lexus problem 2 years ago

Unfortunately for Toyota, new information has surfaced in its latest debacle concerning Engine failures in certain Lexus cars. The automaker “knew two years ago about the engine problem behind its latest Lexus recall, even changing the spring part to correct it, but did not think a recall was warranted until recently.” (Y. Kageyama, AP Business, 7/6). Considering the incidents of the past year, as a products liability attorney I am becoming increasingly concerned about all that Toyota knows but is trying to keep quiet.

The latest recall affects 270,000 vehicles that need replaced valve springs. If these crucial parts are not replaced, the engines could stall.

In August 2008, “Toyota changed that spring part, making it thicker, to prevent the problem…[which] is why the latest recall does not affect vehicles produced after August 2008.” However, the fix in 2008 shows that Toyota was aware of the problem in older models then but did not act until now.

Although, “Toyota executives have repeatedly vowed to put customers first… it has been criticized as lagging in its response to quality lapses, and was slapped with a record $16.4 million in the United States for responding too slowly when the recall crisis erupted.” I hope this stalling behavior will not occur in the future as consumers need to know immediately about defects.

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July 8, 2010

Intel Working on Black Box for your Car

Companies like Intel may benefit from “Toyota’s woes with recalls and mysterious acceleration problems.” (J. Quain, NYTimes, 7/7). Intel, for example, has a black box on the horizon that could potentially take the mystery out of many car accidents.

Congress is pushing for event recorders, or black boxes, to be installed in all new vehicles as part of a piece of legislation propelled by the Toyota acceleration issue. As part of the system, “Intel’s event recorder would be able to record basic telemetry of the vehicle and information like whether the seat belts were being used at the time of an accident, and a whole lot more.”

Combining video capabilities with GPS technology would allow the Intel event recorder to know exactly where and when an accident occurred and have up to 30 seconds of video to help piece everything together.

The event recorder “would also be tied directly into a car’s existing computer control modules, so that investigators would know when or if the brakes were applied, for example, or if there was some mechanical malfunction.” Moreover, sophisticated vision systems create the potential for an external camera to know what a traffic signal was at the time of impact or whether the driver disregarded any important roadside signs.

The technological possibilities are seemingly endless, but costs will likely limit the technology that can be required for use. However, as GPS and drowsy driver warning systems are already standard in many vehicles, much of the hardware cost is already included in the vehicle. As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicago, I am intrigued by the seemingly endless possibilities and am hopeful that the technology will be both effective and affordable.

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July 2, 2010

Consumers Need More Disclosure, New Safeguards to Improve Vehicle Safety

The AAJ released a commendable statement regarding vehicle safety and consumer protection in May (5/19, AAJ, www.justice.org). In light of the many vehicle safety issues that have occurred this year, Toyota largely being at the forefront, these recommendations should be taken seriously and as an attorney with experience in products liability and motor vehicle accidents, I support the following suggestions.

Congress should “increase civil penalties for safety violations, improve disclosure of “early warning” data, and mandate both “black box” event recorders and brake-override systems in all new vehicles.” Increasing civil penalties for safety violations will lead to automakers being more careful. To date, the limit on civil penalties is $16.4M, this does not adequately serve to deter careless manufacturing and quick reporting of problems.

Congress should also implement enhanced disclosure of “early warning” data is essential so consumer can start taking the necessary precautions immediately. Unfortunately, we have seen time and time again that manufacturers know of safety defects but delay or deny problems. These socially irresponsible behaviors will continue unless Congress requires otherwise.

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July 2, 2010

Toyota Says Faulty Engines in 137,000 Cars in the U.S.

Lexus says “about 137,000 of its vehicles in the United States may have V-6 or V-8 engines with faulty valve springs and in extremely rare instances, the engine may stop while the vehicle is in operation.” (NY Times, C. Jensen, 7/1). For many, this is just the latest in the safety disaster that has become Toyota.

Toyota’s stated Thursday afternoon that “due to slight variations during the manufacturing process, some foreign material may have contaminated the valve springs resulting in potential breakage.” Consumers should look out for “abnormal engine noise or idling, or stalling as possible signs of breakage.

The models affected are the IS 350, GS 350, GS 460, GS 450h, LS 460, LS 600hL. Lexus said “current model years” were not affected. The Lexus division has stated that it is undertaking investigational steps and will announce a remedy as soon as possible.
As a products liability lawyer, I encourage all Lexus consumers to stay up to date on any future recalls that may affect these vehicles.

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June 29, 2010

Number of child deaths from hot cars is on rise

As a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, I urge parents to take the following information to heart and not leave their children in hot cars during the summer. This past week, the government decided to join safety groups to warn parents and all adults responsible for children about the extreme dangers of leaving kids in the car during hot summer days. (K. Thomas, AP Washington, 6/25).

Unfortunately, this declaration was in response to surfacing information showing that “deaths of infants and toddlers trapped inside hot vehicles have mounted in recent weeks. A researcher says 18 children have died of hyperthermia since the beginning of the year, eight of them reported since June 13.” Perhaps surprisingly, this recent bout of child fatalities is the largest number of fatalities due to hyperthermia in the first half of a year since the early 1990’s. On average, nearly 40 children perish annually from heat exhaustion in cars.

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June 29, 2010

Lexus Hybrid Recalled Over Fuel Leak in Crash Test

Lexus announced Friday that it was “recalling about 17,000 of its 2010-model HS 250h hybrid sedans, after testing by federal officials found that too much gasoline had leaked in a rear-impact test”. (NY Times, Wheels, C. Jensen, 6/25). Additionally, Lexus has stated that it has instructed dealers to stop selling the cars until the problem is resolved.

In a statement, “Toyota, the parent company of Lexus, said the HS 250h had passed rear-impact tests without a problem. It said it was investigating to find out why the test conducted by federal officials had a different result.”

The rear-impact test is conducted by “hitting the vehicle from behind with a barrier moving at about 50 miles per hour,” and is performed both by the automaker and occasionally the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spot check the automaker’s results.

As a car and truck accident attorney, I am hopeful that Lexus takes the NHTSA’s results very seriously and remedies the problem quickly.

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May 28, 2010

4 NY teens hurt when driver holds breath, faints

As a car and truck accident attorney, I must encourage all drivers to drive with the utmost care, especially young drivers lacking in experience. Jokes, pranks, and dares are never wise when behind the wheel. This week, “four upstate New York teenagers who tried to hold their breath for the time it took their car to go a third of a mile were hurt when the driver fainted.” (AP, 5/26).

Authorities say four teenages boys were “traveling together late Monday night when they decided to try to hold their breath while riding through Garbutt, a rural Rochester-area hamlet that's just three-tenths of a mile long.” The 19- year old driver fainted while holding his breath, causing the car to hit a boulder. The driver is paraplegic for whom the car was specially equipped to drive. Fortunately all four teens were okay after being treated at a hospital.

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May 25, 2010

Nissan Is Recalling 42,000 Trucks

Nissan announced this week that it is recalling almost 42,000 of its 2010 Infiniti and Nissan trucks because poor welding on a suspension part may result in its failure. (NY Times, Wheels, C. Jensen, 5/21).

According to the automaker, the failure of a cylindrical collar that is part of the lower control link assembly could “allow the vehicle handling characteristics to deteriorate.” The vehicles included in the recall are the 2010 Nissan Titan, Armada, Frontier, Xterra and Pathfinder as well as the Infiniti QX56.

As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicago, I always encourage consumers to maintain up to date knowledge regarding recalled vehicles and to act swiftly if their vehicles are affected.

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May 17, 2010

Hummer recalls 198,000 H3s worldwide to fix hood

General Motors announced recently that it is recalling all Hummer H3s produced since the 2006 model year to fix a portion of the hood that can detach during driving. (D. Stumpf, AP Auto, 5/5).

The recall is voluntary by the automaker after two complaints in the U.S. and three in Japan, and affects nearly 165,000 Hummer H3s and H3Ts in the U.S. A Hummer spokesman says, “a device on the hood called a hood louver (LOO-ver) can come loose and possibly detach while driving.” The faulty device helped to cool the engine on older models but is purely decorative on the newer H3.

As a automobile accident attorney in Chicago, I encourage all consumers to stay on top of auto recalls and act quickly if your vehicle is affected to avoid needless injuries.

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May 2, 2010

Acura Recalling 167,000 TSX Models for Fire Hazard

Christopher Jenson reports, “Honda is recalling about 167,000 of its 2004–8 Acura TSX models because of a fire hazard.” (NY Times, 4/29). This is the third recall of an Acura model for a similar problem, now affecting almost 500,000 vehicles.

Honda said the fire hazard stems from “prolonged under-hood temperatures,” which may cause a crack in a house to the power steering, which would leak fluid and potentially create a fire hazard. The first report, according to Honda, of such a fire was last September, which prompted further investigation leading to a series of recalls.

As a products liability lawyer, I encourage all Acura drivers to monitor the recalls and ensure their vehicles are not affected.

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May 2, 2010

Toyota Offers a Fix for S.U.V.’s Control Problems

Toyota said Thursday, “it had resumed sales of the Lexus GX 460 after fixing a problem with the stability control system that could cause the luxury sport utility vehicle to roll over.” (N. Bunkley and M. Maynard, 4/29, NY Times) These actions came after a highly-public consumer reports warning against purchasing the car.

The fix, according to the company is a software upgrade for the vehicle, which has been distributed to dealers who have been instructed to schedule repairs. This news comes only a day after Toyota issued another recall, this one regarding the 2003 model of the Toyota Sequoia. Although no accidents had resulted, Toyota plans to upgrade the stability control systems on the recalled vehicles.

As a car and truck accident attorney, I am glad that Toyota has found a fix to the issues with it’s SUV’s, and as always, I encourage consumers to remain aware of recalls and act quickly if necessary.

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April 18, 2010

Toyota conducts safety tests on all SUV models

After Consumer Reports placed a “do not buy” warning on the 2010 Lexus GX460 this week, “Toyota announced safety tests on all its sport-utility vehicle models in a sweeping effort Thursday to reassure buyers” (AP, 4/15, Y. Kageyama). This is the latest in what has become the Toyota debacle that began last fall.

Acting quickly in response to the Consumer Reports warning, Toyota suspended all sales of the SUV in North America on Tuesday, probably in an effort to avoid criticism about acting too slowly, which contributed to the 16.4 Million dollar fine that automaker received. On Thursday, the automaker said the sales block would be extended to all markets while the vehicle underwent further testing.

Consumer Reports is a popular source for interested buyers due to its reputation for thorough testing and as being unbiased. The issue with the GX 460, “occurred during tests on its track. In a standard test, the driver approached a turn unusually fast, then released the accelerator pedal to simulate the response of an alarmed driver. This caused the rear of the vehicle to slide outward. Under normal circumstances, the electronic stability control should quickly correct the loss of control and keep the SUV on its intended path. But with the GX 460, the stability control took too long to adjust, which could cause a rollover accident if one of the sliding wheels were to strike the curb or another obstacle.”

As a products liability lawyer in Chicago, I am pleased to see Toyota’s quick response to this latest issue with its vehicles. Toyota’s reputation for high quality and safe cars has been harmed over the last several months, and if they intend to regain their previous status, acting quickly and taking care of potential problems is the best approach. Safety is the most important feature on any vehicle, and I encourage all buyers to research safety thoroughly before buying a car.

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April 11, 2010

Europeans warned of Toyota pedals well before US

In issuing a “record $16.4 million fine on Toyota for failing to alert the U.S. government to the safety problems quickly enough, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited the warnings to the other countries. LaHood said Tuesday that Toyota made a "huge mistake" by not disclosing the safety problems sooner. (K. Thomas and L. Margasak, AP Washington, 4/7).

Documentation recently made public suggests that Toyota was aware of the accelerator problems long before U.S. regulators were made privy to them as European distributors were informed long before the U.S. As major concerns about sticking gas pedals in the U.S. were rising at the end of 2009, documents “show that weeks earlier, on Sept. 29, its European division issued technical information identifying a production improvement and repair procedure to address complaints by customers in those countries of sticking accelerator pedals, sudden rpm increase and/or sudden vehicle acceleration."

Although Toyota is still deciding whether to accept or contest the fine, the Japanese automaker has a long trek of legal battles ahead as it has been named in approximately 140 potential class action lawsuits and an additional 100 or so personal injury and wrongful death cases in federal courts. As a personal injury and automobile accident attorney in Chicago, this information leads me to question the honesty of Toyota for knowingly failing to disclose potential problems to the United States. Doing so at an earlier date could have saved many lives, thus a hefty fine is a just manifestation of the frustration the U.S. has with the delay.

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March 21, 2010

Honda to recall 410,000 vehicles for brake problem

This week, Honda Motor Co. announced a recall affecting about 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Element small trucks because of problems with the brake pedals. (Detroit AP, T. Krishner, 3/16). The recall includes 344,000 Odysseys and 68,000 Elements from the 2007 and 2008 model years. As a products liability and car accident attorney in Chicago, I encourage consumers to be aware of the problem and take action to repair the breaks as soon as possible.

Honda says “the brake pedals can feel soft to drivers and must be depressed closer to the floor than usual before the vehicles will fully stop.” Although the breaking condition worsens over time, it only affects some of the vehicles.

The source of the problem is a part in the stability control system that can let air into the breaking system. Honda says owners should take their vehicles to a dealer as soon as they get notification from Honda. Letters will go out at the end of April. Until then, if you drive a vehicle be aware of breaking function and begin slowing the vehicle in advance of the desired stopping point.

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March 21, 2010

Toyota, US inspectors examine wrecked NY Prius

Toyota’s woes continue as “investigators from Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inspected a wrecked 2005 Prius in a suburb of New York City on Wednesday to see if its event data recorder or the car would point to a problem with braking or acceleration.” (Harrison, NY AP, J. Fitzgerald and D. Stumpf, 3/17).

The Prius driver “told police that it sped up on its own as she eased forward down her employer's driveway on March 9 and hit a wall across the street. She was not hurt and authorities have said there is no indication of driver error.”

Although Toyota has recalled more than 8 million cars because their gas pedals could become stuck or be held down by floor mats, the Prius is not on Toyota's recall list for sticky accelerators, but was repaired because of floor mat problems This accident seems to suggest further recalls may be necessary.

In response, both the government and Toyota are evaluating more than 60 complaints from Toyota drivers who say they had their recalled cars fixed and still had problems.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I am weary of the Toyota recalls and think they may be more information that will soon become known. Seemingly, there are problems with some Toyota models that are not yet corrected.

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March 7, 2010

GM to recall 1.3M compacts for steering problem

General Motors Co. announced this week that it “is recalling 1.3 million Chevrolet and Pontiac compact cars sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to fix power steering motors that can fail.” The recall affects 2005 to 2010 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2007 to 2010 Pontiac G5s, 2005 and 2006 Pontiac Pursuits sold in Canada and 2005 and 2006 Pontiac G4s sold in Mexico” (Detroit AP, 5/2).

Although the automaker stated that vehicles are still safe to drive and do not lose their steering, they warn it may be harder to steer when driving at speeds under 15 mph. GM spokesman Alan Adler said “the failures are rare and the cars can still be driven until motors can be replaced by dealers. Drivers will see a warning light and hear a chime if the power steering fails, but they could be surprised when the steering becomes more difficult.”

GM promptly told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the recall on Monday. The automaker plans to fix older models first because the condition usually does not develop until after 20,000 to 30,000 miles of driving.

As a chicago attorney with experience with recalled vehicle injuries, I am pleased that GM acted promptly to take care of what appears to be a minor problem with just 14 accidents and 1 injury reported. As always the NHTSA website is a reliable source for updated information.

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February 21, 2010

Honda Expands Air Bag Recall to nearly 400,000 More Cars

Perhaps taking some pressure off its competitor, Toyota, in the recall hot seat, Honda has announced that it is “recalling 378,000 additional vehicles because the driver’s side air bag may deploy too forcefully, causing an injury or death.” (New York Times, Jensen, 2/9). Last year, Honda recalled 440,000 vehicles for the same reason, which expanded an earlier recall affecting few thousand vehicles in 2008.

The expanded recall affects 2001-2 Accord, Civic, Odyssey and CR-V models, and some 2002 Acura TLs. As always, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration website, is the best place for detailed and updated information.
Thus far, he automaker has admitted it was aware of 12 accidents stemming from airbag issues that caused at least one fatality.

Honda has been the subject of an NTSHA investigation, which said it was evaluating the “timeliness” of Honda’s recalls. The agency noted “failure to respond promptly, truthfully and completely could subject Honda to significant civil penalties.” As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicagoland, I think it is important to note that prompt recalls are the responsibility of automakers. If Honda unduly delayed recalling vehicles it knew were defective, sanctions should follow.

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February 21, 2010

Honda Expands Air Bag Recall to nearly 400,000 More Cars

Perhaps taking some pressure off its competitor, Toyota, in the recall hot seat, Honda has announced that it is “recalling 378,000 additional vehicles because the driver’s side air bag may deploy too forcefully, causing an injury or death.” (New York Times, Jensen, 2/9). Last year, Honda recalled 440,000 vehicles for the same reason, which expanded an earlier recall affecting few thousand vehicles in 2008.

The expanded recall affects 2001-2 Accord, Civic, Odyssey and CR-V models, and some 2002 Acura TLs. As always, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration website, is the best place for detailed and updated information.
Thus far, he automaker has admitted it was aware of 12 accidents stemming from airbag issues that caused at least one fatality.

Honda has been the subject of an NTSHA investigation, which said it was evaluating the “timeliness” of Honda’s recalls. The agency noted “failure to respond promptly, truthfully and completely could subject Honda to significant civil penalties.” As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicagoland, I think it is important to note that prompt recalls are the responsibility of automakers. If Honda unduly delayed recalling vehicles it knew were defective, sanctions should follow.

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February 21, 2010

Honda Expands Air Bag Recall to nearly 400,000 More Cars

Perhaps taking some pressure off its competitor, Toyota, in the recall hot seat, Honda has announced that it is “recalling 378,000 additional vehicles because the driver’s side air bag may deploy too forcefully, causing an injury or death.” (New York Times, Jensen, 2/9). Last year, Honda recalled 440,000 vehicles for the same reason, which expanded an earlier recall affecting few thousand vehicles in 2008.

The expanded recall affects 2001-2 Accord, Civic, Odyssey and CR-V models, and some 2002 Acura TLs. As always, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration website, is the best place for detailed and updated information.
Thus far, he automaker has admitted it was aware of 12 accidents stemming from airbag issues that caused at least one fatality.

Honda has been the subject of an NTSHA investigation, which said it was evaluating the “timeliness” of Honda’s recalls. The agency noted “failure to respond promptly, truthfully and completely could subject Honda to significant civil penalties.” As a car and truck accident lawyer in Chicagoland, I think it is important to note that prompt recalls are the responsibility of automakers. If Honda unduly delayed recalling vehicles it knew were defective, sanctions should follow.

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February 14, 2010

Toyota’s Problems not over – the company was hit by over 100 Prius brake complaints

Although the Toyota incident has been well covered in the news, a recall that has become so expansive deserves attention. Unfortunately, it appears as though Toyota was not as proactive as it should have been with problems with which it was aware. As a personal injury attorney, companies who fail to fix problems that they are aware of until it is too late and many consumers have been hurt infuriate me as both a lawyer and a consumer.

Shino Yuasa reports, “Toyota Motor Corp. has been hit by over 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius hybrid, the latest in a spate of quality troubles for the automaker as it grapples with massive global recalls” (AP for FindLaw, 2/3). The brake problems come shortly after accelerator pedals sticking and floor mat issues received much media attention.

Rightfully so, Toyota’s sales have plummeted in the United States and the company is beginning to see sales repercussions abroad. For a company that has, for many years, been known for high quality and safe cars, this hit is both careless and devastating.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 100 complaints involving the brakes of the Prius new model. Two involved crashes resulting in injuries. The NHTSA is launching an official investigation on the automaker, and, as always, their website is a reliable source for recall information. Please take this recall seriously and take any precautions that are necessary to ensure the safety of all those on the roadways.

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February 7, 2010

Growing Anger, Frustration, and Confusion among Toyota Drivers

As Toyota executives have been less than forthcoming about the issues surrounding the recalls, their consumers are becoming increasingly more agitated as many have invested in new, nice, and what they thought were safe cars, only to be fearful of driving them to the point that they are beginning to turn to rental cars. Since Tuesday, “when the Japanese automaker said it would stop making and selling some of its top-selling models, the company has had few answers for dealers and drivers - most notably when Toyota owners could get their cars fixed and hit the road without worrying” (AP for FindLaw, McClam and Fredrix, 1/29).

"I'm stuck with this car," said Tony Raasch of Hales Corners, Wisconsin, who collided with another driver in his 2010 Corolla two weeks ago when the car suddenly accelerated. "I really don't know what to do. I just feel - I guess - ripped off is the best way to put it."

Almost certainly multiplying consumer frustrations, “Toyota is sending new gas pedal systems to its factories, not to dealerships that want the parts to take care of customers' cars.” On Friday, the company said that details regarding the solutions to the acceleration problem will be made available next week and should take about a month to implement. Of course, drivers do not have a month to be without their Toyota for daily uses.

However, as a Chicago car and truck accident attorney, I urge drivers to take this recall seriously. No matter how frustrating and inconvenient it may be, it is imperative to take the necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary injuries.

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January 31, 2010

Toyota Issues a 2nd Recall

The New York Times reports from Detroit, “Toyota issued its second large recall in two months on Thursday to fix a problem with accelerator pedals that can get stuck, causing vehicles to speed up unintentionally” (Nick Bunkley, 1/22). The recall covers over 2 million cars and trucks between model years 2005 and 2010, and is separate from the 4.2 million vehicle recall in November. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website has more detailed information regarding which cars are affected.

The November recall targeted a floor mat design flaw that could potentially cause the gas petal to become trapped, which was the suspected culprit in a fatal accident this summer in California. However, even after removing and replacing floor mats, reports of jammed petals continued to plague the automaker.

Two recent accidents in Texas and New Jersey have prompted the NHTSA to consider launching an investigation. Until Thursday, the automaker denied any mechanical or electronic problems with the gas pedal, but is now saying that in “rare instances” there may be a mechanical mechanism malfunction leading to gas pedals to get stuck accelerating.

Although Toyota seems to be making thorough and appropriate recalls, all consumers must be sure to have their recalled vehicles fixed as soon as possible. The issue plaguing Toyota vehicles is one that is more serious than many other recalls. Three major accidents in six months have occurred as a result. Therefore, as a personal injury attorney, I encourage all people to take whatever steps necessary to avoid possible fatal car accidents.

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December 17, 2009

Harley-Davidson Recalling 111,000 Motorcycles

As a truch and car accident attorney in Chicago, I always urge people to keep track of recalls and act quickly if they own an affected product.

Christopher Jensen reports, “Harley-Davidson is recalling almost 111,600 motorcycles because the fuel tanks could leak following a severe crash. The company told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it discovered the problem during its own crash testing, and it is not aware of any “fires, injuries or fatalities” related to the defect. The recall covers 2009–10 Touring, CVO and Trike motorcycles” (NYT, 12/11).

Subaru also announced a recall involving a concern about fire regarding a fuel leak in extremely cold temperatures in the 2002-3 models of the Impreza WRX.

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December 17, 2009

AAA Test of Older Drivers Goes Online

This week, The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, announced “that it was making its computer program that assesses the ability of older drivers available free online” (Tanya Mohn, NYT, 12/8).

The “Roadwise Review” program is “designed to help older drivers test their abilities through exercises that measure eight physical and mental areas that can predict crash risk, like memory, visual processing speed, leg strength, and head and neck flexibility.”

The program was originally released five years ago to be distributed throughout the AAA network, although no substantive changes have been made to the program, it is not free and accessible to all with an internet connection.

The beauty of the program is that it “allows users to check their driving skills at home,” which can be a non-threatening first step for families with elderly drivers who need to be reevaluated. As a automobile accident attorney, I encourage families with older drivers to try this program to ensure their loved ones are capable of driving safely. To try the program, go to www.seniordrivers.org.

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November 29, 2009

Devices Help Drivers Put Down the Phone

New technology called ZoomSafer is a free service that uses a phone’s GPS sensors to determine whether the user is at driving speeds, and then disables the cellphone from making or receiving phone calls until the car is stopped (New York Times, 11/22, Grobart). Drivers can override this command, but doing so generates an e-mail to the account administrator alerting them of the override command. Of course, turning a cellphone off while driving is another solution to this problem, but most Americans will forget to turn off their phone or don’t have the discipline to do so as we are addicted to being in constant contact with the world.

In fact, not all consumers are comfortable with the idea of a service automatically disabling their phone, and some would rather continue to use cell phones with hands free devices. Ford and Microsoft, for example, “ are selling systems that rely on voice commands to dial phones.” These devices are more popular with consumers, but the auto shut off technology has “caught the eye of large auto insurers,” who are not convinced that hands free chatting is much safer and want to have less payouts for accidents.

As a Chicago attorney who has seen the repercussions of careless phone use while driving tear lives apart, I am intrigued by the new technology. Especially for young drivers, have an automatic cell phone “muzzling” mechanism may lead to a drastic decrease in auto accidents involving new drivers. I encourage all drivers to make sure they are being cautious will cell phone usage, whether hand free or otherwise, behind the wheel and to be sure to abide by any law regulating cell phone usage while driving.

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November 23, 2009

Chrysler Is Recalling Jeeps for Transmission Issue

As a personal injury lawyer and an advocate for vehicle safety, I urge all people to maintain awareness about vehicle recalls that affect your family. This week, Chrysler announced it is recalling “about 161,000 Jeeps because their automatic transmissions were assembled without a system to warn if the fluid is overheating” (New York Times, Jensen, 11/13). The issue with the transmission is particularly apparent when “operating a vehicle under rigorous off-road conditions,” which if done continuously “will cause the vehicle’s transmission temperature to elevate…[and] may lead to a transmission failure.”

All 2007-8 Jeep Wrangler drivers should act immediately to repair this defect and avoid possible injury. Other drivers may want to routinely check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for additional recalls.

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October 25, 2009

Nissan Recalling 143,000 Vehicles Vulnerable to Road Salt

Christopher Jensen reports, “Nissan and Infiniti have issued a geographic recall of about 143,000 vehicles in cold-weather states because road salt could cause corrosion that could cause the tire-pressure monitors to malfunction” (New York Times Auto Blog “Wheels”, 10/16).

The vehicles included in the recall are: 2008–10 Infiniti M35 and M45.; 2009 Nissan Cube; 2009 Nissan Murano; 2008 Nissan Rogue. The states included in the recall are: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

In a limited geographic recall, “automakers are allowed to repair vehicles only from states where the problem is likely to be caused by the weather or regional factors such as salt use.” However, many consumer advocates have long protested the practice, arguing that vehicle consumers travel from state to state and geographic recalls do not adequately protect consumers. As an attorney who has witnessed consequences of automobile manufacturing negligence, I agree that the practice of geographic recalls subjects consumers who move their vehicles between states to additional risks. As always, it is important to stay on top of vehicle recalls and act quickly in addressing the problem.

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October 18, 2009

Highway Deaths at Record Low in first half of 2009

Ken Thomas reported, “the government says deaths on U.S. highways have dropped to a record low during the first six months of 2009,” which is a continuation of a recent trend (AP for FindLaw, 10/9). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data supporting a 7 percent decrease in highway deaths from the same period last year.

Last year, more than 37,000 highway fatalities occurred, which was the lowest since 1961. Officials predict the figures for this year will be even lower. Highways deaths have been steadily declining since 2005.

Safety experts have “attributed the declines in highway deaths to the economic recession, record-high seat belt use, vehicle safety advances, and fewer people driving.” As a personal injury attorney who seeks compensation for victims of wrongful deaths, I am pleased to see this decline in highway fatalities.

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October 11, 2009

Toyota issues huge recall over accelerator risk

Ken Thomas reports on the California traffic accident that ended fatally for passengers of a Lexus ES350 in August, which led “Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday [September 29] to issue its largest-ever U.S. recall, involving 3.8 million vehicles” (AP for FindLaw, 9/30). Previously, it was only speculation that a floor mat caused the accelerator to get stuck leading to the crash, but recently Toyota and the government have warned owners to remove the mats from their vehicles until the automaker finds a remedy.

The actual recall, which may be as early as this coming week, will involve extremely popular models like the Toyota Camry, Prius, Avalon, Tacoma, Tundra as well as several Lexus models – most recalls span 2005 to 2010 models. Toyota spokesman, Irv Miller, warned “a stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop a vehicle...until the company finds a fix, owners should simply take out the removable floor mat on the driver’s side and not replace it.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working closely with Toyota as it had received reports “of 102 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck.” The NHTSA is alerting owners to this “urgent matter” to the best of their ability, but it is important to spread the word. Toyota’s largest recalls prior to this one only involved 900,000 vehicles, which makes the 3.8 million vehicle recall seem even more ominous. As a Chicago automobile accident and products liability attorney, I want to emphasize how important it is to be aware of vehicle recalls. Toyota and Lexus owners should remove floor mats from the drivers side immediately and visit the NTHSA website or call the hotline at (888) 327-4236 for more information.

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September 28, 2009

Sorting Out Differences in Helmet Standards


As a personal injury lawyer, I fully support clarifying helmet standards, as discussed in a recent New York Times article. Dexter Ford reports, “the surest way for motorcycle riders to avoid joining the rapidly growing ranks of fatality statistics — up 144 percent since 1997, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — is to wear proper head protection. A helmet increases the chances of survival in an accident by 37 percent, the safety agency says” (9/27).

However, Different safety certifications on helmets contribute to confusion among helmet shoppers. All helmets sold in the United States for road use must have the stamp of federal safety standard – a Transportation Department certification. However, often helmets have an additional certification label from the Snell Memorial Foundation – a non-profit research and testing organization that is financed by helmet makers.

Snell certification is mandatory for some racing communities, which leads consumers to assume Snell certified helmets are safer – an assumption that is widely disputed. Many, including head injury specialists say, “they are concerned that the “premium protection" proffered by current Snell-certified helmets may not be better after all. They argue that current Snell-rated helmets are too rigid and unyielding to properly absorb impact energy in the great majority of motorcycle crashes, subjecting riders to preventable brain injuries.”

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September 20, 2009

Volvo Recalls Cars for Fuel Pump Problem


Christopher Jensen recently reported, “Volvo is recalling almost 12,000 vehicles because a computer problem involving the fuel pump, [which] could allow the vehicles to stall. The affected vehicles are the 2008-2010 S80, the 2009-2010 XC60 and the 2009-2010 XC70” (New York Times, 9/11).

After receiving several complaints of the smell of gasoline or a leak, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has “begun an investigation to see if there is a problem related to the fuel pump on almost 53,000 of [Volvo's] 2004 XC90 S.U.V.’s.”

As always, it is extremely important to pay attention to vehicle recalls and address the issue if it applies to your vehicle immediately. As a personal injury lawyer, I always encourage people to stay up to date on vehicle recalls by visiting the NTSHA website, and to act quickly when they are affected

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July 30, 2009

Recent Study says that Texting while Driving Increases risk of Crashing by larger margin

A recent study that videotaped truck drivers for 18 months found that the risk of texting while driving “sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research – and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions” (New York Times, Richtel, 7/27).

The new study found “that when drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.” The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute compiled the data and also studied the amount of time drivers took their eyes off the road to send or receive texts. Before a crash or near crash, “drivers spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices – enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.”

For the purpose of comparison, several field and laboratory studies found that drivers who are talking on their cell phones are four times more likely to cause a crash than other drivers not talking on their cell phones. Many studies have confirmed the notion that texting while driving is the riskiest among many causes of distracted driving.

As a Chicago personal injury lawyer and a parent, I urge everyone to speak with his or her children and loved ones about texting while driving, as the 16 to 24 year old range was over twice as likely to do so than drivers in older age groups. However, older drivers are also guilty of texting behind the wheel, so all drivers should be aware of the severity of the data compiled on texting while driving.

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July 24, 2009

Data on Distracted Drivers withheld due to Political Pressures

Matt Richtel reports for the New York Times, (7/21) results from a 2003 long-term study of 10,000 drivers to determine the effects of distracted driving were withheld from the public partly due to political pressures. The goal of the study was to determine the real danger posed by drivers using cell phones, however hundreds of pages of research and warnings about cell phone usage while driving were not made public, in part, because of concerns about angering Congress.

Today, “the full body of research is being made public for the first time by two consumer advocacy groups, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the documents.” In recent interviews, officials who withheld information have asserted that they were “urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.”

Critics maintain that withholding such important information has fostered a “behind-the-wheel multitasking” culture that has cost many lives. The researchers “estimated that cell phone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.”

As a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, I am disappointed that political pressures would keep critical information from becoming public knowledge. The more cell phone usage behind the wheel is studied, the more we are able to understand how truly dangerous distracted driving is. I urge all drivers to avoid driving while distracted as it can cause death or injury not only to youself but also to others on the roadway.

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July 17, 2009

Helping the Elderly Keep Their Driving Skills

As a personal injury lawyer I am pleased to hear of new technology geared towards helping older people maintain safe driving skills. Although losing the freedom to drive is not something most of us like to consider, we all need to be prepared for the day that we can no longer drive safely. As the elderly population increases dramatically with the aging of the baby boomers, technology that may be able to help elderly people have the ability to drive safely longer is certainly intriguing. Consider the following story from the New York Times blog, Wheels (7/17, Mohn).

According to Census projections, “next year there will be 39 million Americans aged 65 or older…that number will jump to 69 million by 2030…by 2025, one-quarter [of the population] will be considered elderly.” Therefore, more elderly people will be on the roads potentially putting both themselves and other drivers at risk. Dr. Bella Dihn-Zarr, the North American Director of Make Roads Safe, a non-profit organization says “we all think we are excellent drivers even when we aren’t,” and as we age our reaction times, night vision, peripheral vision, concentration, and quick decision making skills can be slowed.

A new computer program, Drive Sharp, is designed to help elderly people drive more safely. The “brain fitness program” helps people “retrain their brains and delay the impact of aging.” Drive Sharp includes “two interactive exercises designed to improve focus, reaction time and memory, and increase visual processing speed and the ability to track multiple objects, like cars at a busy intersection.” According to some clinical studies, “when used properly, the program can help drivers see more, think faster and cut crash risk by up to 50 percent.”

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July 17, 2009

Speed Kills but Ticketing Falls

Although no one likes getting a speeding ticket, ticketing serves an important function – to deter drivers from driving too fast and causing injury to themselves and others on the roadway. According to the New York Times blog, Wheels, “even if you speed every day, the laws of probability say you will get only one speeding ticket every 35 years.”

According to the New York City Report, “Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety,” even though “the number of deaths from speeding-related accidents increased gradually, at a rate of slightly more than one per year, between 2001 and 2006, the number of speeding tickets issued fell by more than 20,000.” One report accused New York City Police Department of prioritizing traffic flow over traffic saftey violations.

For the nation as a whole, however, the number of all traffic fatalities “have been dropping steadily over the past two decades.” Paul Steely White said “the decline in fatalities shows that reducing them even further is possible.” Mr. White further stated that New York may consider setting a goal of zero traffic fatalities, a goal some European cities have already adopted. Even though he conceeded that “most people would laugh at that goal in New York…adopting that as a vision and as a goal, however unattainable, is really what’s needed.”

As a personal injury lawyer, I support anything that limits traffic fatalities. Even though zero traffic fatalities may be an extremely ambitious goal, it is a step in the right direction.

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July 10, 2009

An emergency device for motorcyclists

As a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, I favor most anything that increases personal safety. Fortunately, the following story has a happy ending as a result of a relatively new GPS device, the Spot Satellite GPS Messenger. Especially in locations where cell service is inadequate, this emergency tracking device may prove to be critical for survival.

The New York Times (Furchgott, 7/8) covered a story on a motorcycle crash that occurred on a winding mountain road in West Virginia. The crash escalated from shock to horror when the other four riders in the group checked their cell phones to call for help only to see that none of them worked. Fortunately, one rider returned to his motorcycle and pressed the “911 button” on his Spot Messenger. The riders were able to signal for help because “unlike mobile phones or systems like OnStar, which require a cell tower to relay an emergency call, the Spot Messenger sends a call directly to a satellite with GPS position of the call.”

The Spot Messenger was introduced to consumer markets about 18 months ago. Since that time approximately 100,000 have sold mostly to campers, boaters, pilots, and motorcyclists. The messenger is only about the size of a bar of soap and costs $150. Basic service is $100/year, which includes the 911 function, an “I’m okay” message button, and two other pre-typed messages that can be sent to up to 10 people who have been previously specified.

Hundreds of successful emergency calls have been attributed to the Spot Messenger in the past 18 months. For anyone who is planning on partaking in activities in areas without adequate cell coverage, the Spot Messenger may be a worthwhile purchase.

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