Recently, Karen Swicker, a Massachusetts social worker, was driving to a business meeting when she noticed a puff of smoke next to her left arm. When she turned to look, she noticed that the door of her 2002 Subaru Outback was smoldering. She quickly pulled over because the puff of smoke had turned into a cloud. By the time the firefighters responded and pulled the door off, it caught fire.
Unfortunately, Swiker’s situation was not an isolated incident. In another case, a driver claimed that he felt heat coming from the buttons in the armrest on the driver’s side door of his Subaru Outback. Yet another driver said that the flames melted a two-inch hole in the door.
As a result of complaints from Swicker and others, Safety Research & Strategies, an automobile safety consulting firm, has urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open an investigation into the possibility of an auto defect in the electronic components in the Outback’s door, which might be the cause of the fire.
The request follows the NHTSA’s recent announcement that it was investigating 309,000 General Motors vehicles and 830,000 Toyota vehicles for the same kind of problem—fires in the driver’s side door. The NHTSA is looking into the possibility that GM and Toyota use the same supplier of electronic door components. An agency spokesperson said that the agency is aware of the Subaru problem, is monitoring complaints and will take action as necessary.
Meanwhile, Subaru said that it is aware of the incidents like Swicker’s and is looking into the problem internally.
Car Defects Remain a Problem
Despite the many safety improvements made to automobiles throughout the years, car defects continue to be a recurring problem. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, there are about 31 vehicle fires per day—the vast majority of fires are caused by a mechanical or electrical defect. As a result of these preventable vehicle fires, one person is killed per day nationwide.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective automobile, contact an experienced products liability attorney. An attorney can investigate the causes of your injury and work to hold the parties responsible accountable.