Senate Hearing on NHTSA: Does Money & Power Corrupt & Endanger Us All?

Senate Hearing on NHTSA: Does Money & Power Corrupt & Endanger Us All?

November, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Who is responsible?

Takata, GM, Jeep, Toyota and other vehicle defects (including defective Trinity guardrails under DOT FHWA responsibility) occurred since the year 2000.  
So since 2000, who have been in positions of power to influence DOT NHTSA auto safety policies and practices?  See
If the DOT NHTSA has been driving under the influence of powerful interests since 2000, is it any wonder that deadly defects occurred and persist to this day?  Millions of defective vehicles are still on U.S. roads endangering us all.
Tests of NHTSA’s Corporate Captivity
*  Why won’t NHTSA simply publish crash fatalities and fatality rates by auto manufacturer each year?  GM alone is involved in about 10,000 crash fatalities each year in the U.S.A.
*  Why won’t NHTSA simply set a national goal to rescue crash victims and get them to definitive emergency medical care within the Golden Hour by 2020?  Within a decade? *  Why won’t NHTSA simply count unborn babies that die with their mothers in crashes?
Money and Secrecy Corrupt Safety & Justice

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Confidential settlements over defective Takata Corp. airbags are sealing off relevant information that other victims could use to pursue injury claims.

The accords make financial sense for the settling parties, but Takata and other defendants, including Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, get an extra advantage in keeping damaging information out the hands of outsiders interested in suing them.

The quick, secret deals — a cornerstone of product liability litigation across industries — help explain why, years after the first recalls, so much remains unknown about defects linked to four deaths in the U.S. The few cases filed have generally been resolved before victims’ lawyers acquired evidence.  Source:

GM Victim’s “Compensation” Program – Keeping It $hort
GM Feinberg program extended for countless victims by just 1 month.  Automotive News finds victim that GM knew about but the victim did not know about the program.

“”I believe that the many efforts to reach all possible GM automobile owners, former owners and others who might have been adversely impacted by a defective ignition switch have been both comprehensive and effective,” Feinberg’s statement said.

“There will always be some individuals who do not receive formal notice and are generally unaware of available compensation.  But such individuals appear to be very few in number.”

In its statement, GM said: “We agreed with Ken Feinberg’s recommendation to extend the compensation program deadline. Our goal with the program has been to reach every eligible person impacted.”

One of them was Jamie Frei — a 20-year-old Marine when his Chevrolet Cobalt hit a tree north of Philadelphia in December 2006. The airbag failed, and he spent 29 days in a coma before waking up and learning how to walk again.

Page 130

Frei’s name appeared on pages 130 and 131 of the lengthy report detailing GM’s internal investigation into faulty ignition switches on his and 2.6 million other cars, though it was blacked out in the publicly released version of the report. His accident was denoted by a small diamond on a graph prepared for the GM executives who approved a recall in January.

On another page, his injuries were classified as “moderate.”

But Frei says he didn’t know GM had established a compensation fund for people injured or killed in crashes linked to the ignition switches until he was contacted last week by an Automotive News reporter.

“I had no idea,” said Frei, who eventually recovered enough that the military deployed him to Afghanistan. “I haven’t heard from [GM] since 2008.”

That’s when Frei agreed to a settlement with the automaker, court records show. Under the compensation program being administered by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, Frei could be eligible for a much larger amount: $385,000, based on the length of his hospital stay.

Hints last week

Sunday night’s announcement came after Feinberg hinted last week that he is considering extending that deadline and doing more to contact potential victims who haven’t filed a claim, in response to requests last week from lawyer Bob Hilliard and safety advocate Clarence Ditlow. 

Hilliard has submitted numerous claims to Feinberg, whom he described as being fair in decisions returned so far. On Wednesday, Hilliard was hired by the family of Jean Averill, a Connecticut woman whose 2003 death was among the first 13 fatalities that GM linked to the defect. Averill’s family didn’t know of the connection until informed this month by The New York Times, which Hilliard called “stunning,” given that the family has lived on the same fruit farm for 10 generations.

GM said on Friday that it has since contacted Averill’s family, attributing the delay to the fact that the 2004 claim related to her crash had come from an insurance company. Spokesman Jim Cain said GM has worked aggressively to notify owners of the affected cars about the recall and the compensation fund, with the latest round of 5.3 million letters from CEO Mary Barra set to go out this week.

“Extensive effort” 

“It’s been a really extensive effort,” Cain said. “Our goal here is to reach everyone who has a potential claim to invite them to participate.”

Feinberg had received 1,851 claims, including for 202 deaths, and approved 67 of them as of Nov. 7.

GM also turned over its claim files to Feinberg, who has mailed forms as well, but Hilliard said Dec. 31 is too soon to shut people out.

“There’s absolutely no reason not to keep the fund open for another year. It’s just an arbitrary date,” Hilliard said.

“When I see a Cobalt at the gas station, I go up and say ‘Do you know your car’s been recalled?’ and nobody does.”  Source:

Elections have consequences for people, parties, and our future safety.
In this past week’s elections, money (highest ever) and message (or lack thereof) contributed to a shift in control of the Senate from Blue States to Red States.  The people who will die or suffer serious crash injuries are more likely to die in Red States.  (Fatality rates are generally higher in Red States than Blue States based on 2012 data).  See attached State rankings.
So if money can be outweighed by public safety interest and message, then the public interest may be advanced in safety with bipartisan support.  Based on Nader’s thoughts in his new book Unstoppable, neither Republicans, Democrats, nor Independents want to die of crash injuries at the higher rates found in Red States.


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