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First Exploding Airbags, Now Exploding Sunroofs?

In recent years, drivers of some of the most popular cars on the road have been inundated with recall and repair notices from manufacturers regarding defective and dangerous airbags. In fact, most major auto manufacturers had models subject to recall notices to repair or replace airbags to prevent harm to consumers. Now, there may be a new rash of recalls for another seemingly-harmless component of one’s vehicle: Sunroofs. Consumer Reports (link: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/exploding-sunroofs-danger-overhead/) reports on the growing numbers of incidents in which glass sunroofs unexpectedly shatter, raining broken glass on drivers and passengers creating significant potential for injury.

The recent rise in the number of these incidents has caused alarm. The inherent risks from shattering sunroofs in moving vehicles cannot be undersold and the potential for catastrophic harm to people and property and should not be taken lightly. But the auto industry has been slow to address the issue. While several manufacturers have issued recalls for certain models, the industry, as a whole, has not taken the steps that it previously took with other defective parts, including airbags. This is cause for concern as a dangerous defect remains unaddressed in many vehicles on the road.

As it stands, there are certain steps the weary consumer needs to take to proactively protect themselves. First, confirm that your sunroof is made from laminated glass. Laminated glass is designed to remain in a single piece even if it shatters, similar to a windshield. In the event the sunroof breaks on your vehicle, this will ensure the integrity of your vehicle until a new sunroof can be fitted. Second, inquire as to whether your vehicle is subject to recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a government agency, provides a database to check on the status of your vehicle: https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.

If you do suffer loss and your sunroof unexpectedly and suddenly shatters, there are several steps that you should take to preserve your rights. First, document all damage to your vehicle. Note the road conditions and any possible inciting events. Second, contact both your insurance company and your dealer. You will need to determine if the damage is covered under your policy or warranty. Furthermore, file a complaint with the NHTSA to warn other drivers of the attenuated risks associated with your make and model of vehicle. While it may be too late to prevent damage to your vehicle, providing forewarning to similarly-situated drivers can prevent harm to others.

Lastly, you may consider filing a lawsuit. While each incident is unique, these sunroofs have proven defective over time. Depending on the manufacturer’s knowledge, they may be liable to the harm caused to you and your property by their failure to address an open and known defect to their product.

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