The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal organization charged with maintaining standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety, levied more fines in 2014 than in any other year of its existence. In fact, the $126 million in civil penalties issued by the NHTSA last year exceeded the amount collected during the entire 43-year history of the organization. More than half of those penalties were against the Honda Motor Company.
In a report issued by the agency on January 8, 2015, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made it clear that the agency is taking a “tough stance” against Honda and other automakers. According to Foxx, the companies must live up to their responsibilities concerning product safety. Foxx said the federal government will not accept any excuses from those who refuse to “do their part in the mission to keep Americans safe on the road.”
The Reason for the Fines
The United States government requires that automobile manufacturers, including Honda and other foreign-owed companies that do business in the U.S., submit certain reports about potential safety issues with their products. The reports are to be made each quarter and should contain information such as the number of deaths or injuries involving the manufacturer’s vehicles, the number of complaints by customers, and the number of warranty claims made on particular automobiles.
According to the NHTSA, Honda failed to file accurate early warning reports about actual or potential safety issues. This resulted in two civil penalties ($35 million each) being levied against Honda. The first penalty concerned the company’s failure to report some 1,729 death and injury claims during the period of 2003 to 2014, as required by law. The second penalty was due to Honda’s failure to report warranty claims and claims under customer satisfaction campaigns, also during the period of 2003 to 2014.
What Happens Next
Under a consent order entered into by Honda and the U.S. government, Honda must provide information concerning the previously unreported deaths, injuries, and warranty claims. It must also participate in third-party audits concerning its compliance with early warning report requirements, develop written procedures concerning reporting requirements, and train its personnel to properly report the type of data at issue.
The fines imposed upon Honda are the maximum allowable under current NHTSA law. Congress set a cap of $35 million several years ago, but it is likely that the maximum allowable fine will soon be raised. The reauthorization bill for the agency seeks an increase in the allowable fine to $300 million. It also asks for more authority to force recalls.
If You Think You Might Have a Product Liability Claim
The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III is currently accepting products liability cases in the Cape Cod area, including those arising from defects in cars, trucks, and SUVs. If you’ve been hurt in an accident that you believe was caused by a flaw in your vehicle, call us at (888) 264-6664 to set up a free appointment. We will go over the details of your accident, injuries, and the reasons why you think your vehicle may have been defective. Be sure to bring as much information as you can, including the vehicle identification number of your automobile, the accident report from your wreck, and any medicals bills or records that you have.
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