When there is a defect in a motor vehicle, car manufacturers are supposed to come forward and report the problem. Prompt reporting protects people in Roanoke, Rocky Mount, Franklin County and Southwest Virginia because it ensures that dangerous cars do not stay on the roads.
Unfortunately, a personal injury lawyer knows that it is very common for car makers to delay in reporting problems, leaving vehicles on the road with potentially life-threatening issues. Sometimes, these cars stay on the road for many years and people lose their lives in car accidents. The Senate is now proposing a potential solution to this problem: provide incentives to whistleblowers.
Incentivizing Whistleblowing Could Make Cars Safer
The government has incentives in place to encourage whistleblowers to come forward in order to report fraud against the government. Qui tam claims are very popular and have brought extensive amounts of corruption to light, saving the government untold sums of money when fraud is stopped.
Now, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have voted on legislation that will create financial incentive for auto industry employees and auto parts contractors to report problems. The new legislation has received bipartisan support as 13 Republicans and Democrats voted to move the bill forward for a vote by the whole senate. If passed into law, the new legislation will allow whistleblowers to receive 30 percent of financial penalties recovered by government regulators against car companies for not following laws on reporting defects promptly. The incentives for whistleblowers will kick in as soon as the government requires $1 million or more in penalties.
The new law will come at a good time, as news breaks that vehicles in the U.S. are less safe than ever before. According to Insurance Journal, there were 64 million cars recalled in the course of 2014. This is more than double the previous record number of recalls in a single year. The previous record occurred in 2004.
There is evidence to suggest that many of the recalls in 2014 should have happened sooner- but car manufacturers intentionally hid problems. For example, Claims Journal reports that GM was required to pay $35 million in fees and penalties for not coming forward earlier to report problems with its ignition switch. Because GM delayed in alerting the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the faulty ignition switch, people were killed in crashes when vehicles shut off on their own. Around 379 death claims and thousands of injury claims have already been filed arising from the GM incident.
The whistleblower incentives will make it harder for car manufacturers to get away with hiding what is going on because employees and contractors will now have major financial incentive to report problems as soon as they become aware of them. If the legislation had already been in place, perhaps GM workers would have come forward to receive their 30 percent of the millions in fines- and lives could have been saved because the defect would have been discovered a long time ago.
It remains to be seen if the legislation will pass, but it has strong support. However, regardless of whether whistleblowers receive financial incentives or not, those who are aware of car defects should come forward. Their actions could potentially save lives.
If you have been harmed, contact Davis, Davis, Davis & Davis, PC today at 866-434-1581 or visit https://www.davislawfirm.com to schedule a consultation. Serving Roanoke, Rocky Mount, Franklin County and Southwest Virginia.