Recent reports revealed that Volkswagen has duped consumers, selling them vehicles that are noxious polluters rather than the low-emissions cars they were purported to be. In fact, “Volkswagen has admitted to fitting up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software that cheated tests for NOx emissions, allowing the harmful pollutants to be emitted at rates of up to 40 times Environmental Protection Agency standards,” as stated in USA Today.
Unfortunately, stories like these are all too common. Corporate greed often guides decision-making that impacts people’s lives. As lawsuits are filed around the world, Volkswagen will be taken to task for its mistakes. Yet Volkswagen is showing signs that they will attempt to make it difficult for these fraud victims to achieve a fair resolution.
WARNING SIGN 1: Blame Shifting
Volkswagen Group Chairman Hans-Dieter Potsch explained that engineers developed manipulative software to fool regulators because they “quite simply could not find a way to meet the tougher” limits for nitrogen oxide pollutants in the US, according to USA Today.
The underlying message here is that Volkswagen was backed into a corner, and strict emissions standards are partly to blame. While Volkswagen aims to generate sympathy for their difficult situation, the plight of consumers gets lost. But savvy car buyers understand that they are the victims in this scenario, and Volkswagen is the offender.
Tony Sos of the Orlando law firm Dellecker Wilson King McKenna Ruffier & Sos notes that “we’ve had cases where corporations attempt to escape responsibility by frivolously trying to blame others. Our role, as trial lawyers, is to remind these companies that they’re not the victims. It’s our clients who need to be protected due to corporate fraud and cover-ups.”
WARNING SIGN 2: Controlling the Process
Volkswagen has hired Ken Feinberg to help manage their disaster. Feinberg was the government’s point person for 9/11-related claims and Transocean’s crisis manager for Deepwater Horizon spill-related claims. He’s creating a process for plaintiffs to quickly and easily resolve their Volkswagen emissions-related claims.
Let’s unpack that. Ever been in a car accident? Then you’ve dealt with insurance companies before. Insurance companies offer a process for resolving your claim without an attorney. Your settlement may or may not be appropriate, but it’s probably not appropriate as the insurance company is attempting to quickly resolve your claim for an inadequate amount without taking the time to fully appreciate or understand the damages. Surrendering to the process gives the insurance company control over the outcome.
Plaintiffs involved in the Volkswagen scandal need to scrutinize the company’s process and ask themselves if the outcomes being offered are in their best interests, or if Volkswagen is the party actually benefitting the most. Given Volkswagen’s recent track record with consumers, plaintiffs should be wary.
Protect yourself first, explains Sos: “We always advise people to contact an attorney before having conversations with a corporation that could potentially be a defendant. The processes put in place by these companies are being guided by their own interests and their attorneys, so before you get involved, you should have your own attorney to look out for your interests.”
WARNING SIGN 3: Moving Too Quickly
The irony of Feinberg’s resolution program for Volkswagen is that regulators haven’t even approved Volkswagen’s proposed repairs for manipulated vehicles yet.
Is Volkswagen jumping the gun?
“Plaintiffs need to slow down rather than be rushed along by a process they have no control over. Once a person has been injured physically, monetarily, professionally or otherwise, the best thing they can do for themselves is take back control. We understand that plaintiffs are eager for a resolution, yet it takes time for the chips to fall so we can see exactly where the real issues lie. New information can come out, or we can become aware of additional damages. Either way, taking time to make sure the truth emerges can make an incredible difference in people’s lives,” says Sos.
We would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding this matter or injury claims stemming from corporate greed. Call the Orlando firm Dellecker Wilson King McKenna Ruffier & Sos at 407-244-3000.
Photo credit: Karen Roe
Tony Sos is a partner at Attorney at Dellecker Wilson King McKenna Ruffier & Sos. View his Linkedin profile.