NHTSA Fines an Effective Deterrent for Delayed Recalls?
The car seat company Graco recently recalled around six million car seats. For parents in Blue Point, Carolina Place, Forest Cove, Forest Hills or throughout the Wilmington area, a car seat recall should be of great concern. Parents count on car seats to help prevent the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a motor vehicle collision. Car seats play a very important role in saving the lives of children and as many as a third of all kids who die in car crashes at age 13 or under are either not buckled or not in a car seat. Of course, these car seats only help prevent death or injury if the car seats work properly.
The Graco car seats were recalled because of a potential problem with the buckle. The buckle could become stuck in the "latch" position and the car seats would thus not provide adequate protection for kids in the event of an accident. A personal injury lawyer knows that when problems like this develop, prompt action on the part of the company is essential to save lives. In this case, however, allegations are being made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the car seat company may have known about the problem with the car seats well before it acted.
The NHTSA is investigating Graco and the company could face a civil penalty or fine. However, such a fine may not be enough of a deterrent to prevent companies from engaging in these delaying tactics in the future.
Is the Threat of Fines Effective at Deterring Recalls
The NHTSA was instrumental in getting Graco to recall the six million car seats, but the agency believes that the recall should have happened earlier.
The NHTSA is currently investigating whether Graco notified the agency in a timely manner when it became aware of the issues with the latch. The NHTSA oversees vehicles and accessories like car seats and requires product manufacturers to notify the agency within five days of the time when the company believes that it has identified a problem. Graco may have failed to comply with this requirement.
If the NHTSA determines that Graco did not follow the reporting rules, then the agency could assess civil penalties of as much as $35 million. This, however, is not a significant amount of money for major car companies or for major manufacturers of car accessories. The threat of this civil fine may not be enough to discourage companies from using delay tactics when a problem is suspected.
To provide a more effective deterrent, the fine may increase. The Grow America Act is a four year reauthorization bill and among its other provisions, it would increase the civil penalties to $300 million. Raising the congressionally mandated maximum fine could give the NHTSA more discretion to assess larger penalties on companies that fail to fulfill their duty to provide products that are safe for the public use. It could also encourage car and carseat companies to ensure that they follow the rules.
Help is available for accidents victims in Willmington, NC. Contact the Law Offices of Richard Flexner at 800-FLEXNER or visit http://www.getflexner.com to schedule a free consultation. Serving Blue Point, Carolina Place, Forest Cove, Forest Hills and the rest of the Wilmington area.