This week it was revealed that Volkswagen failed to report at least one death and three injuries involving it's vehicles to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA maintains a database of vehicle defects that lead to death or injury and automakers are required by law to report all claims. Legal complaints against an auto manufacturer must be filed with the NHTSA within 30 days of the end of the quarter in which the automaker was notified. The company must notify the NHTSA even if there's been a settlement, or the company disputes the complaint or a ruling has been made in the automaker's favor. This database was designed to track auto defects and support the product recall efforts which are so important for car owners.
As an Alameda personal injury attorney, I have seen the benefits of the safety reporting requirements and as a result automobile safety improvements first hand. When I was a kid, cars did not have seat belts or head rests let alone airbags and sensors. A rear end accident had catastrophic consequences; broken bones, paralysis and even death. There is still room for improvement however. Seat belts have been required by law since 1968. Research shows that the lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent. Fortunately putting on a seat belt when getting in a vehicle is almost second nature now.