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Chicago, IL Personal Injury Law Firm Blog

Senate questions NHTSA's response to GM defect scandal

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the federal agency most directly tasked with ensuring that American roads remain safe for travelers. This agency concerns itself with preventing motor vehicle accidents and with ensuring that those which do occur are neither fatal nor devastatingly injurious. One of the ways in which the NHTSA acts in furtherance of this mission is by investigating consumer-related safety complaints. If these complaints meet certain criteria and it seems that a given model or part could potentially cause harm to the public, the NHTSA may insist that the model or part’s manufacturer initiate a safety recall.

We have previously written about the recent defect scandal involving General Motors. Essentially, individuals employed by the auto giant were aware that a defective ignition switch was being installed in models for a full decade. At no point during these ten years did GM notify the public, notify federal regulators or replace the potentially deadly switches. Instead, it continued to install the switches in newer models.

Understanding the basics of premises liability

When you visit a store, walk down the street or attend a gathering at a friend’s house, you likely take for granted that you will remain relatively safe while doing so. However, broken tree branches, slick floors and other common hazards related to how property is maintained may injure you before you have a chance to return home.

When an individual is harmed on either public or private property due to negligent maintenance or a host of other preventable factors, this individual may benefit from filing a premises liability claim against the owner of the property or another entity responsible for the harm that was caused.

When products fail, you could be at risk

If you stop to count the number of products you make use of in your daily life, you might be surprised at just how many manufactured objects you depend on each day. What happens when one of those products malfunctions? If you are fortunate, the malfunction might simply be a minor inconvenience. However, in other cases it could put you and your loved ones at risk.

Defective and dangerous products are alarmingly common and the companies responsible for their manufacture must be held accountable for the harm these products cause. Manufacturers have an obligation to ensure the safety and suitability of their products. If products do not conform to certain standards, the manufacturers may generally be held liable in the event of an accident.

Consumers may search the NHTSA online tool for recalled vehicles

Over the past few years, the public has been increasingly disenchanted with the auto industry as a result of several high-profile recall scandals. Specifically, in the cases of both the Toyota sudden acceleration scandal and the General Motors ignition switch scandal, once trusted auto manufacturing giants failed to promptly and properly inform the public and federal regulators about potentially deadly defects. In each case, injurious and fatal accidents could have potentially been prevented if these auto manufacturers had upheld their reporting duties.

One of the only positive consequences of these scandals has been the creation of a new online tool which allows consumers to search for potentially dangerous motor vehicles and components by entering vehicle identification numbers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hosts this tool on its website, in an effort to empower motorists to remain educated about any recalls which may affect their vehicles.

Spotting and responding to dangerous dogs

Few life events are scarier or more traumatic than suffering through a serious animal attack. Whether experienced as an adult or as a child, dog bites and other animal attacks can leave both physical and mental scars. As a result, it is important that all Americans know how to spot dangerous dogs and how to respond to dangerous dogs when they are encountered. This knowledge can help to ensure that you and your loved ones prevent dog attacks whenever possible.

Millions of dog bites occur on an annual basis. Some are superficial, while a significant fraction requires urgent medical attention. Not all of these bites can be prevented. However, understanding how to identify and respond to dangerous dogs can help to prevent attacks under numerous circumstances. Dogs can respond violently when they feel afraid or instinctively territorial. Learning to identify a dog’s body language when he or she feels these instincts is therefore important.

CPSC is urged to place more restrictions on kids products

Sometimes it takes government agencies an extraordinarily long time to act on legal mandates. There are a number of reasons why this situation is simply reality, but these reasons do not always make agency-related delays less frustrating. After all, many Congressional mandates are constructed because a public health and safety risk exists which needs to be addressed. Whether this safety risk is quiet cars which pose an accident risk for pedestrians or a lack of patient safety reporting among hospitals, such mandates often serve urgent purposes. Delays in addressing these purposes can cause devastating consequences.

Consider the products liability issue that Congress addressed in section 108 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. More than five years ago, Congress insisted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission convene a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel in order to study the impacts that phthalates and phthalate alternatives have on children when they are used in children’s products. A panel was convened, but the process took so long that the CPSC is only now beginning to review the panel’s report and recommendations.

NHTSA has proposed a new motorcoach roof crush standard

Imagine that you are traveling in a motorcoach. Perhaps you are on your way to a corporate function, a celebration or a tourist destination. Suddenly, your bus is either struck or strikes something and begins to tip. As the bus rolls either onto its side or completely over, you wonder if you will be crushed or whether you will have room to survive.

In an attempt to ensure that more motorcoach passengers survive potentially deadly rollover crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently proposed a new rule aimed at improving roof crush integrity in motorcoaches driven nationwide. Specifically, the rule requires manufacturers of new motorcoach buses to comply with a strict safety test designed to ensure that “a sufficient level of survival space” is granted to passengers trapped after bus accidents have occurred.

Overheating cellphone batteries spark important conversation

A Fox News station recently broadcast a story on potentially dangerous cellphone batteries. The story specifically focused on the experience of one 13-year-old, who slept with her cellphone on her pillow, as many teens and adults are prone to do. As the girl slept, her cellphone battery became swollen and started to smolder. Hundreds of viewers reached out to the station in the wake of the story to report having similar experiences. Defective cellphone batteries like these are truly dangerous consumer products. So why have they not been recalled?

The answer to this question is complex. Many dangerous products are not recalled until either the manufacturer of the product or the government receives a certain number of complaints and investigates the issue at hand. While this process is taking place, other consumers remain at risk of being harmed by those potentially defective products which are still on the market.

Thinking about swimming safety during the summer season

On the hottest days of summer, few activities are more inviting than jumping into a cool, clean swimming pool. However, few ordinary activities are as dangerous as jumping into a swimming pool if you or your young loved ones are ill-prepared to deal with the safety hazards which accompany swimming in the summertime.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the population of Americans most likely to suffer swimming pool drowning tragedies is children between the ages of one and four. These toddlers and tikes are curious, energetic and practically fearless. In addition, most of them cannot swim with any kind of proficiency. As a result, they are likely to toddle curiously into pools if they are unattended even for a moment or two.

FDA is considering safety of off-label drug use marketing

When pharmaceutical manufacturers seek approval to market their products from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they seek approval for very specific uses of those products. For example, the manufacturer of the drug Topamax sought approval to market this drug for use in preventing migraine headaches and treating seizures. These approved uses are printed on the drug’s label and may legally be referenced in marketing campaigns aimed at both physicians and the general public.

However, it seems that Topamax may have another useful function. Professional analysis conducted several years ago strongly suggests that Topamax may aid addicted individuals in battling their dependence on alcohol. This use of Topamax is not explicitly approved by the FDA, therefore it cannot be marketed to the public. However, physicians can prescribe Topamax for this so-called “off-label” use to patients they believe could benefit from the drug.