Is My Car Safe?

Most people trust their cars to carry their families safely from Point A to Point B.  As we all know, it’s possible—maybe even unavoidable—that one day, whether it is our fault or somebody else’s, there’ll be a wreck.  When that happens, will your car keep your loved ones safe?

At Butler Tobin, we know a thing or two about automotive safety.  On behalf of our clients, we have taken on multinational automakers over safety issues, and have even won a $150 million jury verdict, believed to be the eighth largest verdict against an automaker in American history.  So this is a question we get asked a lot.  Fortunately, there are several ways to check into the safety of your car or a car that you’re thinking about buying.

First, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) performs lots of crash tests on vehicles sold in the United States.  Check their website—you can follow this link—and see how your car, or the car you’re thinking about, performed in independent IIHS testing.2014-07-04 Grand Cherokee fire

Second, check the vehicle’s recall history.  Some vehicles, like certain Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks, have been investigated for safety-related defects.  (Because the Jeeps’ gas tanks are mounted in the rear, they can catch fire if hit in the Jeep is rearended.)

Third, consider the reputation of the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, some manufacturers hide the defects in their cars, so that neither IIHS tests nor NHTSA investigations uncover them.  For instance, the dangerous Jeeps with rear gas tanks, the GM vehicles with defective ignition switches, the exploding Takata airbags, and the Toyotas with sudden unintended acceleration went unnoticed by the national media for quite some time.  There are other defects—like defective roofs or seat belt systems—that neither IIHS nor NHTSA may have emphasized, but that nonetheless put occupants at risk.  So consider the reputation of the automaker, and buy a vehicle that is designed to be safe.

 

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This is an example of a hidden defect. Chrysler (which manufacturers Jeeps) put a piece of plastic, which it called a “fascia,” on the rear of the Grand Cherokees in order to hide the dangerous tank location. For the above photo, the fascia has been removed to reveal the vulnerable gas tank. The attorneys at Butler Tobin showed this photograph to the jury at trial.

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