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 20, 2010

Denver air crash probe focuses on crosswinds

The National Transportation Safety Board met recently to investigate and determine the cause of the December 20, 2009 accident at the Denver International Airport. (J. Lawy, AP Washington, 7/13). A Continental Airlines Boeing 737 swerved off a runway, across a field, and came to a stop when it crashed into a ditch and caught fire. Fortunately no fatalities resulted, but the plane was destroyed.

Strong crosswinds seem to be the focus of an investigation into why the airliner with 110 passengers aboard veered off the runway. Actions by the air traffic controller as well as the flight’s captain are being examined and questioned. According to Continental, an air traffic controller did not properly warn the pilots of the strong crosswinds recorded just prior to takeoff. The plane’s manufacturer further asserts that the captain did not adequately compensate for the high wind speeds.

As a personal injury attorney, I am hopeful that this investigation allows for safer travel in the future. Fortunately no one was killed in the accident, but lessons should be learned from such a close call.

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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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