While some civil lawsuits against car manufacturers for product liability may seem frivolous, others are helpful in creating and enforcing auto safety.
According to a new report from the American Association for Justice, titled Driven to Safety (PDF), since the 1960s, vehicle-design-defect litigation has enforced safety standards, revealed previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses, as well has helped deter manufacturers from cutting corners on safety to bolster profits.
"Runaway Toyotas may be front-and-center today, but unfortunately, this scenario has been repeating itself for decades," said Anthony Tarricone, president of the American Association for Justice. "And if history is any judge, the litigation brought against Toyota will inevitably make the company more responsible and responsive to problems, and ultimately safer for consumers."
An interactive report highlights some of the safety features manufacturers started including in their vehicles because of litigation, features such as safer gas tanks, door latches, air bags and seat belts--11 features in all. The detailed report lists the specific lawsuits that brought about certain safety measures. American automakers, for example, were required to install safer power window controls after multiple children died from strangulation.
Other safety improvements included in the report that were promoted by the civil justice system include life-saving repairs to side impact design, roof strength, tires, electronic stability control, and seats.