Federal preemption has indeed become the flavor of the month, as another agency, this time the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) votes a rule into law which eradicates consumer rights to personal injury suits.
Last week, the NHSTA inserted a preemptive clause into the preamble and the body of a new rule concerning seat belt safety known as the "designated seating position" rule. While the rule was originally designed to revise regulations over the number of seatbelts that must be built into a given vehicle, as well as the crash protection around extra fold-out seats, it sneaked in specific language preempting state tort law claims related to injuries involving seatbelt positions.
Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen and a former administrator of NHTSA, said the agency has issued safety standards with preemptive language 20 times over the past three years.
"The fear of lawsuits is one of the greatest incentives automakers have to build stronger and safer vehicles. For NHTSA to suggest that automakers should have blanket immunity from consumer liability lawsuits means that more defective vehicles will be manufactured, fewer will be recalled, the public will have less information about injury causation and more families will needlessly lose loved ones on our roads each day. –Joan Claybrook
This preemptive move on the part of the NHTSA means that if you are hurt in an accident as a direct result of a car company’s negligence in the matter of seat belts, you will have no legal recourse and no right to compensation. If this bothers you and you want to protect your rights, please contact your Congressperson and voice your objection to federal preemption today.