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The Road to Safety: Addressing Michigan Auto Defects and Consumer Rights

The Road to Safety: Addressing Michigan Auto Defects and Consumer Rights

Let’s face it – passenger vehicles are becoming more and more expensive and intricate all the time. Computers and “smart” components, Bluetooth connectivity, onboard high-speed Wi-Fi, GPS and satellite connections, self-driving capabilities, hybrid power sources, 48-inch panoramic video touchscreens, and many more innovative features are adding complexity and cost – not to mention potential safety issues – to the cars, trucks, and SUVs we drive on a daily basis. All these changes may help improve safety, performance, and the overall enjoyment of owning a vehicle. But they also have the potential to cause dangerous distractions, to break down, or to experience exasperating and sometimes inexplicable screen failures and software crashes.

Fortunately, the law provides a variety of ways for auto owners to address problems with product quality, passenger safety, and long-term vehicle utility. Let’s discuss them all here so you’re prepared to act if you run into any potential issues with your new ride.


Lemon Laws Provide Basic Protections for Car Purchasers

In years gone by, if you were unlucky enough to buy a lemon at your local auto dealer, you were typically out of luck. Then, in 1986, Michigan adopted its version of what’s known as a “Lemon Law” – legislation designed to protect consumers who had the unfortunate experience of buying a brand new car that didn’t meet quality or reliability standards. Specifically, the law provided that if you purchased a new car and it required more than a “reasonable number” of repairs for the same defect, or it was in the shop for more than 30 days in the warranty period, you could ask for a replacement vehicle or receive a refund. In other words, if you bought a lemon, you didn’t have to “make lemonade” anymore!

To be entirely clear, the law as it was originally written applied to new cars only and didn’t protect buyers of used cars or folks who leased their vehicles. Furthermore, the term “reasonable number” of repairs was defined to mean:

“1. The same defect or condition that substantially impairs the use or value of the motor vehicle to the consumer has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer or new motor vehicle dealer in Michigan within two years of the date of the first repair attempt, and the defect or condition continues to exist; or

2. The defect or condition continues to exist after the vehicle is out of service for 30 or more days or parts of days for repairs to the same defect or condition during the term of the manufacturer’s express warranty, or within one year from the date of delivery to the original consumer, whichever is earlier.”

Details of the Lemon Laws in other states vary, but the end goal is the same: protecting consumers who spend big money on new vehicles from buying cars with known defects – as happened with Ford Focus and Fiesta vehicles built between 2011 and 2016. In this case, transmission issues that the company apparently knew about and failed to address resulted in a variety of costly problems for drivers, some of which are still being resolved in courts across the country to this day.

Since it was enacted, Michigan’s Lemon Law has been updated to include protection for consumers who lease new vehicles as well as buying them. And while that law is certainly valuable, it’s just one small way consumers can safeguard themselves from defective automobiles and hold automakers responsible for errors in design, manufacturing flaws, or even mistakes made when marketing their vehicles. Fortunately, there are a few more protections in place we should also discuss here.


Product Liability and Class Action Lawsuits – Crucial Tools When People Are Hurt or Privacy Is Breached

Product liability lawsuits provide car buyers with a powerful additional way to seek compensation if they have been injured due to errors in automobile design, problems in the manufacturing process, or through marketing misdeeds. For instance, fuel tank design issues that led to the famous Ford Pinto explosions of the 1970s resulted in the company being compelled to pay significant economic and punitive damages to victims in multiple states. In more recent years, owners of vehicles manufactured by Hyundai and Kia who had their cars stolen due to a lack of immobilizers have won monetary settlements for their losses. Kia and Hyundai owners are also suing the company for engine fire issues that have resulted in injuries and at least one death. Other class action lawsuits – such as those currently being pursued against General Motors for sharing driving data with car owners’ insurance companies without the owners’ knowledge – demonstrate that even issues related to marketing rather than manufacturing can result in consumers seeking compensation, for example when their right to privacy is not respected.

If you have a concern about a problem you’ve experienced with your vehicle, you might also wish to check ClassAction.org to see if it’s been included in their database of automobile-related lawsuits. Of course, you can also contact us to report your experiences to see if our team of attorneys feels you have a valid basis for legal action. This is essential since the burden of proof in Michigan product liability cases rests on you – the plaintiff – which means having trained legal professionals on your side to investigate the situation, gather key evidence, and find expert witnesses to testify on your behalf will be crucial to your success in court.


NHTSA Recalls Mandated by the Federal Government Are Another Essential Safety Tool

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also works hard to protect vehicle owners and passengers from injuries or other losses resulting from defective cars, trucks, and vans. If it’s found that a manufacturing defect is impacting a vehicle’s safe operation, the NHTSA can issue a mandatory recall to force the manufacturer to correct the issue. A recent example is the recall of more than 100,000 Toyota and Lexus trucks and SUVs over concerns that debris left in engines during the manufacturing process might cause the vehicles to stall when underway, potentially leading to accidents or other traffic safety incidents. To see if you have a vehicle that’s currently under a recall notice, the NHTSA has a database where you simply enter your car’s license plate number or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and any open recalls will be displayed. You can also report potential automotive safety issues directly to the NHTSA.


What Else Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against Automotive Defects?

You might have heard it said that the best offense is a good defense. So, drive defensively, and pay attention to your car’s condition to ensure your personal safety on the road. Then, if you do notice something odd happening with your car or have misgivings about your vehicle’s safe performance, get it checked out promptly by a qualified mechanic and document everything. That way, if something goes wrong, you’ll know you did everything possible to keep yourself safe and your vehicle in good running condition, which means you’ll feel 100 percent justified in calling us at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) if you ever do get hurt due to a possible product liability issue with your vehicle. Make the call, and you can depend on us to be there for you and the people you care about 24/7/365.

The Road to Safety: Addressing Michigan Auto Defects and Consumer Rights

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.