Residents of Chicago, Illinois, may know from experience that all vehicles destined for sale in the United States are required to meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. Failure to meet these safety standards can result in product liability claims. If a claim is successful, the automobile manufacturer is held responsible for the consequences.
In addition, a defective car manufacturer also may be liable to pay damages under consumer product liability laws due to injuries received in a car accident caused by a dangerous and defective part of a car. If a consumer cannot ascertain how safe a particular product is until he or she drives it, automobile safety ratings provided by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, under the New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, can help.
Before buying a car, it’s a good idea to know the NHTSA safety ratings for that car. The 5-Star Safety Rating Program examines safety issues of new vehicles beyond the requirements of federal law. Under this program, a car that is the safest to drive from a crash safety point of view receives the highest rating of five stars, while a car with minimum safety standards for drivers and passengers in a crash receives a one-star rating. The more stars, the safer a car will be in the event of an accident.
The 5-Star Safety Ratings Program tests provide customers information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles by conducting frontal crash tests, side-barrier crash tests and side-pole tests using different size crash dummies to determine the impact of a crash on various body parts. After testing new vehicles and receiving the results, the program rates each vehicle. This whole process not only informs a car buyer about the safest cars on the market, but also encourages automobile companies to manufacture safer vehicles.
Source: safercar.gov, “5-Star Safety Ratings Frequently Asked Questions,” accessed April 1, 2015