Drivers in Palm Beach County including Wellington, City Park and all of South Florida should be able to trust the car they are driving is reasonably safe and does not have any hidden defects that could increase the risk of a deadly car accident.
Unfortunately, an accident lawyer knows that motorists cannot count on this fact being true.
In 2014, more than 64 million cars were recalled in the United States according to Insurance Journal. The number of cars that had to be taken off the road was a new record, double the previous recall record from 2004. Many of the recalls in 2014 were because of serious problems, like air bags that did not work or ignition switches that were faulty and could lead to cars shutting off and air bags shutting down unexpectedly. As if these serious problems were not bad enough, many of the recalls also involved allegations that the car companies were aware of the problems with the vehicles for a long time before the recalls were actually instituted.
Car manufacturers are supposed to come forward as soon as they discover a problem and report the issue to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The troubling recalls in 2014 show that this often does not happen. Congress, however, may have a solution.
New Whistleblower Legislation Aims to Identify Vehicle Defects Earlier
New legislation is being considered by the United States senate that would create a strong financial incentive for employees and contractors in the auto industry to come forward if there is a problem with the vehicles that their employers are making.
The legislation was approved by 13 members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and will move forward to get a full vote in the Senate and perhaps one day be signed into law. As Claims Journal reports, it will create financial awards for people who come forward and blow the whistle when it turns out that a car maker has done something wrong.
Under the whistleblower legislation, people who come forward and report a problem can receive up to 30 percent of the money that is recovered by the government in fines and penalties imposed against car manufacturers, so long as the total amount collected is $1 million or more.
Similar whistleblower protections have been very effective at getting employees and industry-insiders to come forward and report problems with fraud against the government. These are called "qui tam" lawsuits. By creating a financial incentive, people who may be frightened about speaking up because of the impact on their careers may feel better about reporting what they know.
Hopefully, if the legislation is passed, car manufacturers will not be able to hide defects for decades. GM, for example, recently paid $35 million in penalties as a result of allegations that the company knew of ignition switch problems and did not act. If a whistleblower had come forward, the whistleblower could have received a lot of money for bringing the wrongdoing to regulators attention. More importantly, the thousands of injuries and 379 fatalities that may be attributed to the ignition switch problems could perhaps have been prevented.
If you or a loved one is injured in a traffic accident, visit https://www.davidglatthornlaw.com or contact David J. Glatthorn at 800-990-9394 to discuss your rights. Serving Palm Beach County including Wellington, City Park and all of South Florida.