New, more stringent roof safety standards brought forth in August by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) don’t only carry tougher safety standards-- they also shield automobile manufacturers from future roof-crush lawsuits. If passed, the change in legislation would essentially pre-empt state laws, and in most cases ban any legal actions stemming from roof-crush cases.

But the move is not without legal opposition. According to the Los Angeles Times, part of the Bush administration’s actions through “arcane regulatory actions and legal opinions… [provides] industry with an unprecedented degree of protection at the expense of an individual’s right to sue and a state’s right to regulate.”

It is understood that NHTSA’s wish to do away with personal injury claims stems from the fear that automakers may make roof structures that are too heavy in order to cope with more stringent roof-crush standards, increasing the likelihood of rollover accidents due to a higher center of gravity. Consumer groups against the action cite other alternatives, including designing vehicles with widened stances and high-strength steel.

For their part, automakers are largely claiming ignorance of the provision, with both Ford and GM spokespeople saying that their company’s did not lobby for the provision.

Where do you come down? Is this an end-around consumer safety rights, or worthwhile and necessary protection for industry from overzealous lawsuits?

[Source: Los Angeles Times via Chron.com]


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