The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is ramping up its encouragement of whistleblowing for employees of automakers, which includes:
- Any employee or contractor who works for a motor vehicle manufacturer
- A motor vehicle parts supplier
- A motor vehicle dealership
NHTSA hopes to help and incentivize insiders of the auto industry to share, in many cases anonymously, “information relating to a motor vehicle safety defect, noncompliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, or violation of the Vehicle Safety Act.” In launching this program, NHTSA intends to let potential whistleblowers know of the benefits and protections afforded to them for coming forward with valuable information, including protection from retaliation, as well as keeping the identity of the whistleblower hidden. In the event retaliation does occur, the whistleblower is to file a complaint with OSHA, who will conduct an investigation.
NHTSA states that whistleblowers may receive 10 to 30 percent of the collected monetary sanctions from successful reports, the amounts of which can be significant. Below are some examples of recent settlements:
- In 2021, Kia Motors America agreed to pay civil penalties worth $70 million for failing to issue a timely recall for an engine crankshaft defect in certain vehicles as well as for inaccuracies in defect and compliance reports. According to the NHTSA, the defect could have potentially led to engine stalling.
- Hyundai Motors agreed to pay $140 million in civil penalties last year for failing to issue timely recalls regarding a potential fuel leak that could have occurred due to a low-pressure fuel hose. Heat could have caused the fuel hose to crack over time creating an engine fire hazard.
- In 2020, Daimler Trucks North America agreed to $30 million in civil penalties for violations of the Vehicle Safety Act related to a number of untimely recalls. One of the recalls involved a brake light failure that could have potentially increased the risk of an accident.
Migliaccio & Rathod has successfully prosecuted numerous automotive defect cases and we echo NHTSA’s encouragement for whistleblowers in the auto industry to step forward.
Are you a potential auto industry whistleblower?
If so, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us confidentially through the form on this page, email firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (202) 470-3520.
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The lawyers at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP have years of experience in class action litigation against large corporations, including in cases involving defective products. More information about our current cases and investigations is available on our blog.