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 27, 2009

Toyota Orders Inspections after a Deadly Crash in Southern California


Toyota said recently, “it will order all dealers to inspect their cars for mismatched floor mats after a mat was suspected of snagging a gas pedal on a runaway Lexus, ending with a fiery crash that killed four family members in San Diego County” (Robert Jablon, AP for FindLaw, 9/15).

Toyota ordered about 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers nationwide to ensure that each of their new, used, and loaner vehicles have the correct and properly secured floor mats. Customers are also encouraged to check their floor mats, and go to a dealer with any questions.

On August 28, four were killed in an automobile accident while in a Lexus ES 350 loaned by a dealer while their vehicle was being serviced. One of the passengers “made a 911 call about a minute before the crash to say the vehicle had no breaks and the accelerator was stuck.”

As part of the investigation of the crash, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigators determined “a rubber all-weather floor mat found in the wreckage was a couple of inches longer than the mat that belonged in the vehicle.” This lead to speculation that the mats “could have snared or covered the accelerator pedal.” In 2007, the company recalled all-weather mats from some of its Lexus ES 350s after complaints that they could slip and trap the accelerator.

As a personal injury lawyer, I encourage everyone to be aware of small defects that may lead to terrible accidents. Although it is unclear if the incorrect floor mats were a primary cause of this tragic accident, it nonetheless sheds light on a possible defect that all Toyota and Lexus drivers should be aware of.

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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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September 14, 2009

FAA orders replacement of Airbus airspeed sensors


Joan Lowy reports, “federal safety officials are ordering the replacement of Airbus airspeed sensors” (AP for FindLaw, 9/3). These sensors are the kind suspected of causing the fatal crashes of Air France Flight 447 and all 228 on the plane in June.

The Federal Aviation Administration published a notice Thursday stating “U.S. airlines operating Airbus A330s and A430s must replace at least two or the three sensors on the plane.” European electronics company Thales Corporation made the old parts, and the replacements are a product of North Carolina-based Goodrich Corporation.
In the notice the FAA said that the old sensors could become blocked and defective at high altitudes by ice crystals, which was the suspected cause of the June Air France crash. Furthermore, the European aviation safety agency finalized a similar order at the end of August.

As a personal injury lawyer, I am pleased to see the steps taken by both the European and American aviation safety agencies to prevent further airline-related deaths. This is an important step after a season of more than usual airline incident.

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September 7, 2009

Chrysler Reverses Stance on Product Liability


Christopher Jensen reports, “when Chrysler went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year, the court granted an important request to prevent current owners from suing the new company if they were injured by a safety defect in the future” (New York Times, 8/28). Chrysler argued that it was unfair to burden the “new” company with defects resulting from the “old” company.

However, Chrysler has apparently had a change of heart because the automaker recently agreed to accept responsibility for injuries resulting from Jeep, Chrysler, or Dodge vehicles made and sold prior to its bankruptcy filing. As a personal injury lawyer, I am pleased that the company has agreed to take on responsibility for all of its products.

Mike Palese, a Chrysler spokesman, said, “when the automaker was going into bankruptcy it needed to take advantage of all the financial protection it would get… [but] now the company knows more about its financial situation and feels it can absorb those liability claims over time.” Some have speculated the sudden change of heart was influenced by General Motors’ willingness to accept responsibility for defective products during its bankruptcy proceedings. Regardless, it is good to see the automaker “finally living up to its corporate responsibility.”

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