Girardi | Keese

Unintended-acceleration debate continues in recent class action

There are few things more terrifying than driving along the freeway in a vehicle that refuses to stop. This can become more terrifying though when pressing on the break appears to make the car speed up faster, all while you pray that you don't end up in an accident as a result.

Situations such as this have been reported all over the United States, including many times here in California. Cases of drivers experiencing "unintended acceleration" date back to the late 1980s, but many people remember the more recent cases such as the "sticky" accelerator problems associated with the Prius models.

In a majority of these cases, drivers encountered problems when the accelerator would become stuck or loose floor mats would get jammed under the brake pedal, preventing the driver from stopping. Design defects such as these have largely been addressed by automakers in the past; but with recent studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggesting that driver error may also be to blame, a debate has begun between automakers and their customers.

Automotive manufacturers such as the Ford Motor Company have long argued that drivers need to take responsibility for their driving habits, pointing out that numerous studies conducted by the NHTSA have concluded that driver error has been a factor in many of the accidents that resulted from unintentional acceleration. Attorneys say that these are events that would not have happened had companies like Ford taken the necessary precautions when designing these vehicles.

The debate surrounding whether unintended acceleration is the manufacturer or the driver's responsibility has now spilled over into a class action that pits Ford against its customers. Customers claim that when it comes to vehicles made by Ford, the company should have and could have made modifications to the braking system to address the problems drivers were experiencing.

While it's import for drivers to make sure that their vehicles are in working order, it's always incredibly important for manufacturers to own up to any mistakes they have made in a vehicle's design as well. These defects have shown to cause dangerous situations and a refusal to acknowledge this only leads to more unnecessary injury and wrongful death.

Source: NBC News, "Lawsuit claims Ford 'design defect' can cause sudden acceleration," Paul A. Eisenstein, March 29, 2013

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