Each year in the United States, it seems, a different model of car is recalled because some component has failed, causing people to get into crashes. Many of these people are injured; some die.

The Response to a Growing Problem

Difficulty in notifying consumers about defects that have been discovered and rectifying problems in vehicles and equipment led to the passing of the Highway Safety Act of 1970. The primary intent of this legislation is “to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established by the Highway Safety Act. The NHTSA establishes and enforces safety standards for manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, and it is responsible for investigating reports of vehicle and equipment defects.

If either a vehicle manufacturer or the NHTSA discovers a safety-related defect in a vehicle or related equipment, the Safety Act requires the manufacturer to get in touch with consumers who bought the defective item, and fix the problem. This action is known as a recall. Manufacturers may be penalized if they do not fulfill this obligation.

What Is a Safety-Related Defect?

The Highway Safety Act of 1970 provides the following definitions to clarify the term safety-related defect:

  • defect: any defect in performance, construction, a component or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment”
  • motor vehicle safety: “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle”

Because the term defect is not clearly defined and unreasonable risk is not defined at all, subsequent court cases have determined the scope of these terms.

The NHTSA’s Hard-Working Investigators

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is the group within the NHTSA that is responsible for investigating safety-related defects in vehicles and equipment. Of the 50 staff members, only 15 to 20 have been engineers or investigators who actually perform defect investigations; the rest of the staff take care of information management, complaint screening, central management, and other functions. The 15 to 20 investigators receive 40,000 to 50,000 complaints each year.

If someone you love has died due to the actions or negligence of another, get yourself a Louisville wrongful death attorney. Call Gray and White Law at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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