When an Automaker Puts Profit Over Safety in Washington


Vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility to design and build vehicles that are safe for consumers. However, there have been instances where automakers have cut corners or hidden known defects in order to maximize profits. This can leave an automaker vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits in Seattle and other Washington cities. This article explores examples of dangerous design defects in vehicles sold in Washington state and the implications for consumer safety when profit is put before responsibility.

Examples of Defective Vehicle Design

Sudden Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles

In 2009 and 2010, Toyota faced massive recalls due to issues with sudden unintended acceleration in several models, including the Toyota Camry, Toyota Avalon, and Lexus ES350. Over 10 million vehicles were recalled worldwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fined Toyota $1.2 billion for failing to report the defect in a timely manner. Sudden acceleration accidents led to hundreds of injuries and several dozen deaths, including in Washington state.

General Motors Ignition Switch Defect

An ignition switch defect impacted millions of GM vehicles sold in the 2000s, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. The faulty ignition switches could unintentionally move into the “accessory” or “off” position during driving, leading to stalled vehicles, disabled airbags, and loss of power steering and brakes. The defect was linked to over 120 fatalities and GM was fined $35 million for failing to issue timely recalls.

Takata Airbag Explosions

Possibly the largest auto recall in history, tens of millions of vehicles sold by Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler, and other automakers were recalled due to defective Takata airbag inflators. Instead of inflating airbags safely, the ammonium-nitrate propellant could explode and send shrapnel throughout the vehicle interior. The airbag defects resulted in at least 28 deaths worldwide, including four deaths in Washington state.

Implications for Consumer Safety

The examples above illustrate how design defects that automakers knew about for years resulted in countless preventable injuries and deaths across the United States, including right here in Washington state. Instead of issuing timely recalls, these companies waited as the risks to consumer safety continued to climb. Finally, only after substantial government fines, public outrage, and loss of life, did meaningful action take place.

When profit is prioritized over responsibility, consumer safety pays the price. Every driver and passenger on Washington’s roadways deserves assurance that the vehicles they ride in are safe as can be. While no design can ever be perfect, vehicles must meet reasonable safety expectations before being sold.

What to Do If You Suspect a Defect

If you suspect that your vehicle has a dangerous defect, stop driving it immediately until it can be inspected by a qualified mechanic. Defects may qualify you to file a claim against the automaker to recoup losses from accidents, injuries, or deaths attributed to the defect. An experienced Washington personal injury lawyer can help determine if you have a case and fight for maximum compensation in negotiations or court. With compassion and expertise, they can handle the legal complexity so you can focus on healing and securing your financial future against disability or lost wages.

Don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance if you or a loved one has been harmed by a vehicle defect in our state. With offices in 32 locations across 19 states including Washington, Missouri and Maryland, we can help. Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.

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