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Exploding sunroofs may be newest widespread vehicle defect

In recent years, there have been major recalls issued for defects with automobiles in the United States and worldwide. There was the Toyota sudden unintended acceleration scandal. There are was the Takata exploding airbag recall. There have been countless others involving defective tires, seat belts, and SUVs predisposed to dangerous rollover accidents.

In each case, it took time for regulators and automakers to acknowledge and address the problems. And during that time, more and more drivers got hurt or killed. The newest auto defect that many of us have yet to hear about may just be the most bizarre: exploding sunroofs.

According to news sources citing Consumer Reports, nearly 1,000 complaints have been issued “on hundreds of models from dozens of automakers.” The complaints share similar themes. Drivers are traveling down the road when their sunroofs suddenly pop/crack/explode, seemingly without cause. Many drivers assume that a rock or something else struck the vehicle, but that is usually not the case.

So what is causing these explosions? The answer is unclear, but some speculate that sunroofs are becoming overdesigned and overstressed, leading to a higher failure rate. For instance, many sunroofs have gotten bigger, have been made into more interesting shapes and now use lighter materials to improve fuel economy in the car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged awareness of the problem and says it is investigating, but no recalls or other actions have been taken yet. Because the problem seems to affect many automakers, it could be a while before any company is held liable for manufacturing and design problems.

Automobile defects – even minor ones – impact safety in two important ways. First, the defect itself can cause physical harm, such as the exploding of Takata airbags that can send shrapnel into the cab of a vehicle. Second, a sudden part failure (like an exploding sunroof) can be a distraction that sends a driver off course and into a crash. In either case, the danger needs to be addressed before it causes a serious or fatal injury.

If you or a loved one has been hurt because of an automotive defect or similar problem, please discuss your legal options with an experienced personal injury attorney.