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FEDERAL JUDGE’S DECISION SHIELD GM FROM IGNITION SUITS

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015 at 1:36 pm    

On Wednesday April 15, 2015, a federal bankruptcy judge issued a ruling blocking most lawsuits against General Motors over defective ignition switches which have been linked to at least 84 deaths.

Judge Gerber of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan ruled that the liability shield which was a part of the 2009 agreement that lifted GM from bankruptcy should be allowed to remain in place. Thus the ruling shuts down not only lawsuits stemming from injuries suffered in accidents that took place before July 10, 2009, but also most of the lawsuits seeking economic damages for the loss of value of the defective cars. It has been estimated that the economic loss claims could potentially total between $7 to $10 billion. However, the judge did allow economic loss cases to go forward if they can be tied solely to actions by the post-bankruptcy company known as the New GM. Of course, lawsuits tied to accidents after the 2009 bankruptcy can proceed.

According to The New York Times report, attorneys representing the Plaintiffs said they would appeal the judge’s ruling. The Times article noted that individuals injured in accidents before July 10, 2009 due to the defective ignition switches could still file a claim with GM’s victim compensation program. However several relatives of victims expressed dismay at being denied access to the courts stating such denial was fundamentally unfair.

Source: An article appearing in The New York Times on April 15, 2015 entitled Ruling Shields G.M. From Ignition Suits by Hilary Stout and Danielle Ivory.

TOYOTA AND NISSAN RECALL 6.5 MILLION MORE CARS FOR AIRBAG PROBLEMS

Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 at 3:36 pm    

For months, the auto industry has struggled to deal with the problems created by the defective airbags manufactured by Takata. Toyota and Nissan recently announced they are expanding their recalls of vehicles equipped with the Takata airbags to include an additional 6.5 million vehicles worldwide. So far at least 6 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to these defects.

According to a New York Times article, the defective Takata airbags can explode violently, sending pieces of metal into the cabin of the vehicle. Although moisture getting into the propellant has been suspected as a cause of the explosions, Toyota said that the relationship between moisture and the risk of rupture was “still very much unknown”.

Toyota is among a group of automakers that has been conducting its own independent tests on the airbags.

Source: Article appearing at NYTimes.com on May 15, 2015 entitled Toyota and Nissan Recall 6.5 Million More Vehicles Over Takata Airbags by Hiroko Tabuchi and Jonathan Soble.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY

Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 at 3:42 pm    

According to a recent article appearing in LNP, there were over 20,000 motorcycles registered in Lancaster County in 2013. PennDOT statistics indicate that in 2014 there were over 861,000 motorcycles registered in the state.

Recent statistics show that the number of motorcycle crashes in Lancaster County fell from 141 in 2010 to 116 in 2013. These statistics tell us that there are still a lot of motorcycle crashes every year in Lancaster County.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers these tips for riding a motorcycle safely:

1. BE SAFE
• Conduct a pre-ride check to identify any mechanical problems that could jeopardize your safety.

2. BE VISIBLE
• Signal your intentions
• Make sure your headlight works and is on day and night
• Use reflective strips or decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle
• Flash your brake light when you are slowing down before stopping

3. DRESS FOR SAFETY
• Wear a D.O.T. approved helmet and eye protection
• Wear bright colored clothing, over the ankle foot protection, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and full fingered gloves

4. USE COMMON SENSE
• Keep a safe distance from other motorists and give yourself enough time to react to dangerous situations
• Ride in the part of the lane where you are most visible
• Avoid weaving between lanes

5. RIDE UNIMPAIRED
• Don’t ride when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
• If someone else has had too much to drink, intervene

6. BE COURTEOUS AND RESPONSIBLE
• Respect other drivers
• Don’t speed; know the traffic laws and rules of the road

7. BE PREPARED. PRACTICE.
• Develop your riding techniques before going into traffic
• Know how to handle your bike in adverse conditions such as wet or sandy roads, high winds, and uneven surfaces

Additional safety tips can be found at www.LiveFreeRideAlive.com.

Source: An article appearing in LNP on Thursday, March 12, 2015 by Ryan Robinson entitled On The Road Again and www.dmv.state.pa.us./centers/relatedMotorcycleInfo.SHTML.

CITATIONS FOR TEXTING FALL IN LANCASTER COUNTY

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 at 1:39 pm    

According to a recent article appearing in LNP, the number of citations issued to drivers who are texting or using headphones or earphones while driving in Lancaster County over the past 3 years was the lowest for the region. LNP reported citations were issued at the rate of 42 citations per 100,000 drivers for Lancaster County over this 3 year period. This compares well to the state average of 62. The highest rate for surrounding counties was 92 per 100,000 drivers in York County.

Pennsylvania’s anti-texting law took effect in March 2012 and provides for a $50 fine. However, local police officers note that enforcement can be difficult because other uses of cell phones are permitted under Pennsylvania law. For example, New Holland Police Chief Donald Bowers Jr. stated that he recently issued a warning to a driver because even though it looked like the driver was texting, he couldn’t tell for certain that the driver wasn’t dialing a phone number. Chief Bowers recommends that Pennsylvania follow the lead of other states and ban the use of all hand-held devices while driving.

Safety experts agree that distracted driving significantly increases the risk of accidents. According to a recent report by PennDOT, in 2013 distracted drivers were involved in 14,372 crashes in Pennsylvania which included 59 fatalities.

If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan today by calling 717-392-6362 to learn more about how you can fight for the compensation you need.

Source: Article appearing in LNP on Thursday, May 7, 2015 entitled Texting citations fall by Tim Buckwalter.

NHTSA PLEDGES TO GET TOUGH ON SLOW-MOVING RECALLS

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2015 at 1:58 pm    

The New York Times reported that at a recent conference, Mark R. Rosekind, the new administrator at NHTSA, promised to take aggressive action on vehicle recalls that move too slowly, thereby continuing to endanger lives. Mr. Rosekind became the administrator of NHTSA in December 2014. At the conference, Mr. Rosekind expressed particular displeasure with the speed of recalls by Fiat Chrysler and air bag manufacturer, Takata.

With respect to Fiat Chrysler, Mr. Rosekind noted that its efforts to fix approximately 1.5 million Jeep SUVs with potentially dangerous rear gas tanks had fallen far short of NHTSA’s expectations.

According to the Times article, Fiat Chrysler agreed approximately two years ago to install trailer hitches on the recalled Jeeps to provide protection in rear-end collisions from gas tank ruptures which could potentially result in catastrophic fires. Since that time, only 4% of the recalled Grand Cherokees have been fixed and just 27% of the Jeep Liberties have been fixed.

Mr. Rosekind also criticized air bag manufacturer Takata for not fully cooperating in the recall of millions of potentially dangerous air bags. Even though NHTSA is currently fining Takata $14,000 a day to get better cooperation, Mr. Rosekind indicated that the agency is looking into ways to accelerate the recall of the defective Takata air bags.

On the other hand, Mr. Rosekind did credit GM for using a horrendous situation involving its vehicles with defective ignition switches to spur change in its corporate practices.

Source: Article appearing in The New York Times on April 28, 2015 entitled Auto Safety Regulator Pledges to Get Tough on Slow-Moving Recalls by Bill Vlasic.
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U.S. INVESTIGATES THE EFFECTIVENESS OF NISSAN AIR BAG SENSOR RECALLS

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at 1:42 pm    

According to a recent ABC News report, U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that two recent Nissan recalls related to front-seat air bag sensors failed to fix the problem. The investigation relates to two recalls in the United States by Nissan, one in 2013 and one in 2014 involving almost one million vehicles because the vehicle’s computer software may not detect that an adult is sitting in the passenger’s seat. When this happens, the air bag won’t inflate in a crash. The sensors are designed to determine if a child is sitting in the seat. When the computer determines a child is in the seat it then turns off the air bag because a small child can be severely injured or even killed when struck by a deploying air bag.

The vehicles affected by the recall include the 2013 – 2014 Altima, Leaf, Pathfinder SUV, Sentra compact, as well as the 2013 Infinity JX35 SUV and the 2014 Infinity QX60 and Q50 SUVs. According to NHTSA, more than 120 people have complained that the problem continues even after repairs were made by Nissan as a part of the recall.

In a written statement, Nissan stated that it believes that the update to the computer software made pursuant to the recall took care of the problem.

Source: Article entitled US Probes Effectiveness of 2 Nissan Air Bag Sensor Recalls appearing at abcnews.go.com on March 22, 2015.

TIPS FOR BICYCLE SAFETY

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 2:06 pm    

As the warm weather returns, more people are starting to ride their bicycles again.The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers these recommendations for safe bicycle riding.

1. Always follow the rules of the road. NHTSA notes that in all 50 states, bicyclists are considered operators of a vehicle and required to obey all rules of the road.

2. Be predictable, signaling your intentions to others using hand signals.

3. Go with the flow of traffic, not against it.

4. Be ready to stop at driveways and intersections. You need to be alert of conditions around you so you can be prepared to respond to sudden developments.

5. Don’t text or use ear buds or headphones while you are riding.

6. Watch out for uneven pavement, potholes, wet leaves, storm grades or other roadway hazards.

7. Make sure you and your bike are visible at all times, especially at night. Wear bright reflective clothing and use white lights in front and red lights in the rear.

8. Always wear a properly-fitted, certified helmet.

9. Never ride under the influence of alcohol, drugs, etc.

Source: www.NHTSA.gov.

NEW PLAN TO FIX RECALLED CHRYSLER MINIVANS

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 at 2:14 pm    

According to an article by Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler recently told NHTSA that it has found a better way to repair more than 700,000 minivans and SUVs recalled for ignition switch defects. Chrysler initially announced a recall last June to fix defective ignition switches that can slip out of position. This is a problem similar to the one that had plagued General Motors and led to a recall of about 2.6 million General Motors vehicles.

When Chrysler initially announced the recall in June,2014 the automaker planned to replace a part within the ignition switch. However, now the automaker has announced that it will replace the entire ignition switch because they believe that this is a better and faster way to make the recall repairs.

According to the article, NHTSA’s recall website is filled with complaints by people who received initial notices last year from Chrysler, but have been frustrated by dealers who are unable to repair the vehicles.

Meanwhile, Chrysler is warning owners to remove everything but the ignition key from their key rings until repairs can be made. If the ignition switch slips from the run to the off position, the engine will stall without warning. This can lead to the loss of power steering and brakes, and it can also disable the airbags.

The recalled vehicles include Dodge Journey SUVs, Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan minivans from the 2008 thru 2010 model years.

Source: An article entitled New plan detailed to fix recalled Chrysler minivans appearing on USAToday.com on 03/8/2015.

CAR SAFETY CONTINUES TO IMPROVE

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2015 at 2:23 pm    

A recent AP article by Joan Lowy reported that the chances of a driver dying in a crash in a late-model car or light truck fell by more than a third from 2008 to 2011. And, according to the study of 2011 models done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nine car models had zero driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. A registered vehicle year is one vehicle registered for one year. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide. Three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.

The nine vehicles having a zero death per million vehicle years are: Audi A4 4WD, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento 2WD, Lexus RX 350 4WD, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD, Subaru Legacy 4WD, Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD, Toyota Sequoia 4WD, and Volvo XC90 4WD.

The vehicle having the highest driver death rate was the Kia Rio 4-door mini car, with 149 deaths. In general the riskiest models were lower priced small cars, while the safest models were mid-sized or large vehicles.

It is noteworthy that when the IIHS last looked at this issue eight years ago, there were no models with driver death rates of zero. Among the technological improvements credited for the declining death rates is the wide spread adoption of electronic stability control (ESC), which has dramatically diminished the risk of rollover crashes in SUVs. Side air bags and structural design changes were also credited with helping reduce the death rates in new automobiles.

For more information regarding death rates of various vehicles see www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/driver-death-rates.

Source: Article entitled Car tech helps drivers survive by Joan Lowy published in the LNP on Friday, January 30, 2015.