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Internal communication documents indicate VW misled regulators

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016   

Though former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn publically admitted that around 11 million of his company’s vehicles had been equipped with emissions-cheating software last September, it seems as though Winterkorn may have known of the problem much earlier than he said. The New York Times reports that the authenticity of documents have been verified by two people who held senior positions with VW, though they wished to remain anonymous.

Newly released internal memos and emails indicate that top managers with the German carmaker knew that affected diesel models could not be brought into compliance with emissions standards. In fact, The New York Times reports that Wintekorn was warned that regulators may eventually accuse the company of using emissions-cheating software in May of 2014, almost a full year and a half before his admission last September.

Should U.S. officials find that Volkswagen intentionally misled regulators, thereby breaking laws based on public disclosure of problems like these, the penalties levied against VW may increase. As part of that, VW may have to pay larger settlements to owners of affected diesel vehicles. The German automaker has not yet found a technical solution that is suitable for U.S. regulators and VW may have to buy back affected vehicles from owners instead.


Tennessee House Bill 700 seeks to make helmets optional for riders 21 years and older

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016   

House Bill 700, which was filed by State Representative Jay Reedy (R) at the Tennessee House of Representatives, seeks to provide the choice of wearing a helmet to motorcycle riders while riding their motorcycles. The bill was easily passed in the House Finance, Ways and Means subcommittee.

The main provision of the bill is to make motorcycle riders who are at least 21 years old and who have motorcycle and health insurance exempted from the mandatory helmet law. The bill does not extend the same privileges to those whose health insurance is provided by the state, such as TennCare.

Supporters of the bill argue citizens should have the right to choose while those who oppose the bill claim it would be a mistake to allow riders to use their motorcycles without proper protection.

There are many factors to a dangerous motor vehicle accident on the road – defective automotive design, unsafe roadways, and irresponsible motorists. If you have been seriously hurt in a personal injury incident, such as a motorcycle accident, in Nashville or other areas in Tennessee, please get in touch with our attorneys at Pohl & Berk, LLP by calling our offices at 615-277-2765 today.


Five million vehicles to be recalled for another airbag defect

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016   

Honda and Fiat Chrysler have issued a worldwide recall of five million vehicles to fix a defective airbag component that the automakers have known about for years. This defective component—a semiconductor that can become susceptible to corrosion—causes the airbag to do one of two things: deploy at random times, or not deploy at all when it is needed.

The defect was discovered in January of 2008 by Continental Automotive Systems, the German company that manufacturers the components that actually control the airbags in these vehicles, who then informed automakers of the defect, according to Mary Arraf, a Continental spokesperson. Arraf went on to claim that it was up to automakers to issue a recall at that point.

The fact that it has taken eight years for anything to be done about the defect is concerning, not to mention probably illegal; federal law in the United States mandates that manufacturers must inform regulators of its plans to issue a recall within five business days of becoming aware of a safety problem. Arraf indicated that “‘potentially less than two million’” vehicles may be affected in the United States.

At present, only Honda and Fiat Chrysler have initiated recalls, though a number of other car makers may eventually need to follow suit, including Mazda and Volvo. A Mazda spokesperson said that the company was still investigating. At Pohl & Berk, LLP, our firm will continue to monitor this evolving story.


Indications VW may have to buy back some of its diesel vehicles

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016   

In a statement made before the United States District Court in San Francisco, Robert Giuffra, a lawyer for Volkswagen, said that the German automaker may decide to buy back some of their diesel vehicles if the company is not able to make them comply with EPA air quality standards quickly enough. Giuffra is one of the attorneys defending VW against the class-action suits that have been filed against the carmaker by owners of affected diesel vehicles.

While the company has indicated in the past that it may eventually need to buy back some of its diesel vehicles in the United States, Giuffa’s statements are the clearest indication yet that the company simply does not have the technology necessary to fix the problem. That being said, VW has not made a definitive statement about what they intend to do for owners of affected vehicles.

At the time of the hearing in San Francisco, the number of vehicles that were known to be affected by the scandal was set at around 575,000. Since the Environmental Protection Agency brought the emissions cheating scandal to light in September and through the end of December in 2015, the value of VW diesel vehicles has dropped by a staggering 16 percent, according to data that is collected by Kelley Blue Book. Even steeper declines have been reported by some owners.


Lawyer calls for removal of attorneys leading case against General Motors

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2016   

Following the failure of the first trial against General Motors over an ignition switch defect in their vehicles, attorney Lance Cooper is calling for the three lead lawyers on the case to be replaced. The attorneys leading the case against GM include Robert Hilliard, Steve Berman and Elizabeth Cabraser, who chose the first case to be heard against the motor company. The plaintiffs in the first claim, Robert Scheuer and his wife, had their case dropped soon after the trial began when it was suggested that Scheuer had fabricated a check that was being used as evidence in the case.

Cooper is representing several victims suing General Motors after they recalled millions of vehicles over a defect with the ignition switches, a flaw which caused several dangerous crashes. Cooper believes that the attorneys made poor decisions in Scheuer’s case, and that his should not have been the first claim brought against GM over the defect. Cooper has now petitioned to have the attorneys replaced, claiming the failure of Scheuer’s case will impact the results of every other claim involving the defect. Lead attorney Hilliard maintains that their decision to pursue Scheuer’s case first was appropriate. The trial is set to continue with another case in March. 


In Case of Car Accidents, Here’s What You Should Do

Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2016   

The next steps that you undertake following a car accident are crucial to avoid the prevalence of more injuries and to prevent further costs from arising. Here are some suggestions for you to consider if ever you are faced with the unfortunate consequences of a car accident.

It is important to have something that will allow you to document the details of your collision, such as a mobile phone or even a pen and paper, so that you can take note of emergency contact numbers, accident details, the extent of the damage caused, etc. You should also consider making it a habit to keep a card with and pertinent medical information, such as allergies or chronic conditions, on your person in case you are rendered unconscious and medical responders need to attend to you.

Drivers involved in the accident should try to move their vehicles to the side of the road if they are still functioning so as to avoid clogging traffic or causing other accidents. If this is not possible, the drivers should stay inside their respective vehicles and put their seat belts on while they await the arrival of emergency responders.

Our personal injury team at Pohl & Berk, LLP helps victims of accidents in Nashville or other areas of Tennessee bring lawsuits against those who caused their injuries. Speak with a qualified member of our team today by calling our offices at 615-277-2765.


Winchester collision kills two

Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2016   

A three-vehicle collision that happened at around 11:30 on the morning of Monday, January 4 on Highway 41 in Winchester, Tennessee, not quite 100 miles southeast of Nashville, has resulted in the deaths of a child and a woman, and the serious injury of the child’s brother and father.

According to preliminary investigations, a minivan containing Aaron Hill, his wife Lynette Hill, and their seven-year-old twin sons, was waiting for a red light to turn green at the intersection of Highway 41 and Bypass Road. While the minivan was stopped, a Kia Sedan being operated by 83-year-old Mary Parks and traveling at speeds of about 90 miles per hour crashed into the back of the Hills’ vehicle.

Chief of the Winchester Police Department, Dennis Young, said the vehicular accident was “traumatic,” and noted that there were “a lot of serious injuries with the children involved.” One of the boys, along with Parks, was killed in the collision. Parks’ passenger, Aaron Hill, and the other boy were taken to a hospital for treatment.


New internal Takata emails suggest widespread manipulation of airbag testing data

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016   

According to a recent article in the New York Times, internal Takata emails that were recently unsealed as a part of a personal injury lawsuit against the Japanese airbag manufacturer suggest that data from airbag testing may have been “misrepresented and manipulated.” So far, more than 20 million vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbags have been recalled and, unless the company can prove that the ammonium nitrate they use as a propellant in many of their airbags is safe, these numbers could increase.

The newly unsealed emails contain communications between Takata employees specifically regarding inflater testing in airbags that made use of the ammonium nitrate propellant. One email from a Takata airbag engineer contained the text “Happy Manipulating!!!” in addition to the results of airbag testing. Other emails include comments about changing the appearance of lines and colors in a graphic of testing results in an attempt to “dress it up” and “divert attention” from the results themselves.

In response to this new information, Takata has argued that these comments do not indicate data manipulation, but rather, are specifically regarding the formatting of data, and that they are not related to the airbags included in the current recall.

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