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Volkswagen hires Kenneth R. Feinberg to Develop Compensation Program for Emission Scandal Victims

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2015   

Months after Volkswagen admitted to equipping certain diesel vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests, the company has hired Kenneth R. Feinberg to address claims related to the scandal and create a compensation plan for victims.  Feinberg is a leading specialist in compensation funds, his most notable work including payouts to victims of 9/11, the BP oil spill, and most recently, those who were affected by the faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ vehicles.

Volkswagen came under fire after the company admitted to installing illegal devices in certain diesel vehicles in order to get lower results on emissions tests, leading many VW owners to take legal action against the automaker, claiming that their vehicles were devalued because of the scandal.

While details of the compensation program have yet to be finalized, VW hopes this move will limit the number of lawsuits filed against them.  Feinberg and his team’s first step in developing this program will be to outline parameters for eligibility and what proof vehicle owners will be required to provide.  Feinberg plans to receive input from the company as well as vehicle owners to fully develop the plan, including the amount of compensation that affected VW owners could get.

Feinberg also explained that the compensation program will not interfere with any state and federal investigations of the company’s actions regarding the scandal.  He expects that the program will take about 60 to 90 days to develop.


Federal gov’t to upgrade safety grading system for new vehicles

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015   

The United States government announced on Tuesday, December 1 that it plans to streamline its safety grading system for new vehicles to include whether the car has the technology to avoid crashes, and whether it has features that can aid in better protecting occupants when such situations arise.

The government will also consider whether the automobile in review possesses sensors that have a capability of detecting frontal collision and immediately applying the brakes in response, or the ability to inform drivers of the presence of vehicles in their blind spots or when drivers are in danger of crossing into another lane.

Crash tests will also be upgraded to include accidents in which vehicles collide at an angle; crash-test dummies that will be used will be designed to better represent the human body.

The rating system grades new vehicles by posting stickers ranging from one sticker as the lowest grade to five stickers as the highest grade on their windows to help buyers make an informed choice as to the safety of these newly-released vehicles.

If you have been injured in an accident in Nashville, call the attorneys of Pohl & Berk, LLP today at (615) 277-2765.


G.M. settled some claims for pre-bankruptcy accidents

Posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2015   

Though General Motors admitted that it failed to disclose information about defective ignition switches for a decade, the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy actually protects G.M. from lawsuits filed for accidents that happened prior to that date. As reported in The New York Times, this legal protection allowed G.M. to compensate these accident victims on its own accord, which it has done through a fund set up by the automaker and operated by attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg.

Of the 4,343 death and injury claims that have been filed against G.M., Feinberg has reported that 399 claims have been found to be eligible for compensation. Included in that figure are 128 approved claims for accidents that occurred prior to the company’s 2009 bankruptcy. In all, it is believe that this fund has authorized around $595 million for the 399 eligible claims, though G.M.’s own second-quarter earnings report suggests that the total may be closer to $625 million.

According to a spokesman from G.M., the company elected to take what it described as a “nonadversarial” approach with the compensation fund, and the reports filed by Feinberg show that a number of claims were settled despite substantial evidence indicating that some drivers shared some of the blame for their accidents. To date, these reports show that over 90 percent of offers for compensation were eventually accepted by victims or their families.

For those people who file claims for accidents that occurred prior to G.M.’s bankruptcy, this is may be the best chance they have for recovering compensation for their accidents. Despite that, there are 180 pre-bankruptcy lawsuits that will be heard over a series of trials in New York next year.


Driver who killed MNPD officer pleads guilty

Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015   

Seventy-three-year-old Key Largo, Florida resident Dean Diver has pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless homicide on Friday, November 20 in relation to a vehicular accident on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville that occurred on May 10, 2014 and resulted in the death of 25-year-old Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Officer Michael Petrina.

Roger May, Diver’s legal counsel, said Diver entered the guilty plea and surrendered himself to the courts because he wishes to cooperate fully with law officials as this incident has “deeply affected” him and his family. The accident occurred after Officer Petrina had parked his cruiser in order to redirect traffic after a collision occurred on Old Hickory. The warning sign had not been updated to indicate that multiple lanes were closed due to the wreck, and Driver was unable to stop his vehicle before colliding with Petrina.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Anderson hopes this incident will serve as a reminder to every driver that special care must be taken any time blue lights are involved. He pointed out the tragic nature of this incident, saying “There’s nothing that can bring the [Petrinas’s] son back.”

As a first time offender who has shown a significant amount of remorse, Driver received the lightest possible sentence for his actions. He faces two years of probation.


Two government workes killed in garbage truck collision

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2015   

Two government employees lost their lives after a pickup truck crashed into a garbage truck on East Main Street in Livingston, Tennessee on Tuesday, November 10.

The victims were identified as 51-year-old Johnny Massengale and 22-year-old Anthony Toney.

According to the witnesses, Massengale and Toney were emptying trash bins into the garbage truck they were operating at the time when a pickup truck hit both of the pedestrians, instantly killing the men. Observers told authorities and news sources that the driver of the pickup did not slow down when approaching the garbage truck. Officers stated that the driver apparently had some kind of medical emergency at the time of the accident.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Darren Butler noted that the investigation into the case remains open. He stated that the driver of the pickup truck was airlifted via LifeFlight to a hospital for the treatment of his life-threatening injuries after having to be removed from his vehicle.

Massengale had been a Public Works employee for sixteen years. Toney was on his fifth day of the job.


GM may be liable for punitive damage over defective ignition switches

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015   

United States Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber has said that General Motors could still be held liable for punitive damages associated with the 2014 recall of the company’s defective ignition switches, according to Reuters. This means that it may be possible for victims and their families to recover compensation for any injury, loss of life, or property damage associated with one of GM’s faulty ignition switches. In September, GM reached undisclosed settlements in around 1,300 injury and wrongful death claims.

Though it may now be possible for victims to recover punitive damages from the company, only claims specifically involving the conduct of post-bankruptcy GM will be considered eligible for compensation. As Gerber explained, post-bankruptcy GM cannot be held liable for what pre-bankruptcy GM “‘knew or did’” regarding the faulty ignition switches. In any event, the decision rendered by Gerber may now be applied to each of the individual cases already filed against GM by each of the judges presiding over these cases.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a faulty GM ignition switch, you should consult with a Tennessee personal injury attorney at Pohl & Berk, LLP, about what legal claim to compensation you may now be eligible to pursue. To speak with a Tennessee personal injury attorney directly, please call our offices at (615) 277-2765 today.


EPA Announces Additional Vehicles Equipped with Emissions-Cheating Software

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015   

On Monday of this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new list of vehicle models that they claim are equipped with emissions-cheating software at the heart of the current Volkswagen scandal. Vehicles named by the EPA in this most recent announcement include the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.

While other Volkswagen and Audi models have been named in connection to this scandal, this is the first time that a Porsche model has been accused of having this software installed.

Volkswagen has refuted this most recent EPA claim, and has stated that they will comply fully with the agency to investigate the matter. The company has admitted to installing illegal “defeat devices” in other Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles to help these cars meet U.S. emissions standards.

This illegal software allows the vehicles to sense when an emissions test is being performed, and to only engage the vehicle’s emission controls in order to pass the test. At all other times, these vehicles can emit pollutants at levels up to 40 times the country’s legal limit.


Tennessee Supreme Court overturns personal injury damage cap ruling

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015   

The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently overturned a decision made by a Hamilton County trial court that determined a state law placing a cap on non-economic personal injury damage settlements is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s ruling centered on more technical grounds of the trial court’s decision rather than speaking to the constitutionality of the cap.

The Hamilton County trial court ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Donald and Beverly Clark after Donald was hurt in an automobile accident; the couple sought a constitutionality ruling on the state law that puts the ceiling of non-economic damages at $750,000 for certain personal injury cases. The trial court deemed the cap unconstitutional after the defendant filed a summary judgment. This decision was overturned after the high court determined that the trial court’s consideration of the motion for summary judgement was premature.

Being hurt in an accident in Tennessee can be traumatizing and debilitating no matter what the circumstances are. In such cases, our attorneys at Pohl & Berk, LLP are here to provide legal help. To discuss your case with an attorney today, call our office at (615) 277-2765.


Volkswagen identifies additional engines with illegal software

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2015   

The German automaker Volkswagen has stated that more of its engines may be in violation of European pollution laws, according to The New York Times. The specific engine model, the EA 288, was already found to be in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations and will not necessitate a broader recall in the United States. In fact, Volkswagen has stated that this development is not likely to significantly broaden the recall in Europe, though officials declined to provide any exact figures.

This is the latest development in an ongoing emissions-cheating scandal that already involves 11 million vehicles all over the world that were equipped with another of Volkswagen’s engine lines, the EA 189. These vehicles all included illegal software that would only activate the emissions controls during official emissions testing, and that would otherwise deactivate those controls in order to improve vehicle performance.

Though Volkswagen maintains that its misconduct was limited to just a few of its key executives and engineers who are responsible for outfitting their vehicles with this emissions-cheating software, the investigation into the matter has only just begun.


Volkswagen announces second emission controlling program

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2015   

Volkswagen has withdrawn all 2016 models of its diesel cars from environmental certification in the U.S. due to the revelation of a second program designed to affect the emissions controls in their vehicles. Federal regulators, along with California state agencies, are investigating the recently revealed device to determine whether or not it violates American emission standards.

The head of Volkswagen’s American unit, Michael Horn, disclosed the existence of the software in testimony given before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The company has stated that it failed to disclose the software and seek approval before introducing these vehicles into the market, giving this explanation as their reason for withdrawal.

According to agency spokesman Nick Conger, “VW did very recently provide E.P.A. with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years. [Regulators] are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device.” Volkswagen has refused to comment on whether or not this software was designed to be a second cheat for the emissions control tests like the program that came to light in September and was able to detect when the vehicles were undergoing tests in order to minimize emissions.

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