In one of the biggest fraud scandals in motor vehicle manufacturer history, Volkswagen has admitted to rigging 11 million vehicles with a software designed to cheat emissions tests. Millions of consumers have purchased the rigged cars, billed as eco-friendly, thinking they were doing something good for the environment and public health. However, the opposite is true. In fact, the “clean diesels” produce nearly 40 times the legal limit.
The German auto manufacturer got away with emissions fraud for seven years before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncovered what was going on. After an environmental group tipped off researchers at West Virginia University, the researchers ran tests on various VW models and learned that emissions from two of the diesel models were significantly higher than allowed. In May of 2014, the researchers reported their discovery to the EPA, but VW put the blame on technical issues. However, on September 18 of this year, the EPA announced that VW had, in fact, violated clean air rules by purposely cheating emissions tests. Last week, the EPA notified car manufacturers that it will begin additional testing of diesel vehicles under ‘real world’ conditions, rather than just in a lab.
Consumers Sue For Compensatory and Punitive Damages
Consumers are furious, and rightfully so. Volkswagen stock has dropped 30% since last week alone, and millions of environmentally-conscious people are driving around major polluters that are worth thousands less today than they were last week.
Will Criminal Charges Follow?
With 11 million VW vehicles at the center of this scandal, the EPA’s maximum per-car penalty for violating clean-air regulations could cost the manufacturer $18 billion. However, it will likely be less. If Volkswagen is willing to negotiate, the EPA will probably offer a substantial discount on its maximum per-car penalty. However, the extent of that discount will be largely dependent on the impending criminal investigation. Criminal prosecutors will be looking for evidence that the fraud was intentional. Considering that VW has already admitted it rigged the vehicles to pass emissions tests, it seems very likely that investigators will turn up fraud by engineers and executives. If knowing fraud is identified, criminal charges against individuals will probably follow.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Motor Vehicle Attorneys
If you have been injured or incurred damages as a result of an auto manufacturer’s negligence or fraud, you may be entitled to compensation. In addition to property damage and injuries, motor vehicles with defective parts can see a significant drop in value. Today’s vehicles are often a major investment, and when negligent or fraudulent activity results in a loss of value, it can seriously damage your bottom line. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our skilled attorneys have been protecting the rights of consumers for nearly 50 years. We have successfully represented countless clients in cases involving negligent auto manufacturers.
Additionally, if you are aware of fraudulent activity by an auto manufacturer, the Federal False Claims Act encourages you to expose the fraud by filing a whistleblower lawsuit. If your information leads to a settlement, you may be compensated with up to 25% of that settlement. Whistleblowers provide a necessary service. Information about fraudulent activity can protect the safety and welfare of the general public. At Altman & Altman, LLP we encourage individuals with unique information about fraudulent activity to come forward. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.