The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act provides monetary rewards to insiders who report violations while protecting the whistleblower’s confidentiality. If you have information pertaining to a vehicle defect or safety issue, turn to Newman & Shapiro.
What Is The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act (MVSWA)?
Passed by Congress in December 2015 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the MVSWA provides a monetary incentive to workers in the automobile industry to report violations of vehicle safety laws. It covers employees and contractors working for automobile manufacturers, vehicle parts suppliers, and automobile dealerships. If the information brought forward to the government results in sanctions of over $1 million, eligible whistleblowers can receive between 10 and 30 percent of the money collected.
The MVSWA is similar to the False Claims Act and other whistleblower laws. The architects of the MVSWA recognized that industry insiders are often privy to information that can enable the government to enforce vehicle safety laws, thereby protecting the public. Not only does the law protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation, it allows them to keep their identities secret when reporting violations. A whistleblower does not have to be a U.S. citizen, and the violations don’t have to occur in the United States as long as some of the vehicles or parts enter the U.S. market.
These are some examples of recent safety violations for which a whistleblower may have been eligible for a reward (as a percentage of the sanctions) had he or she reported them:
- Takata Airbags, which have exploded and sprayed drivers with shrapnel. Sanction: $200 million.
- GM Ignition Switches, which could prevent airbags from inflating by shutting off the engine. Sanction: $900 million.
- Toyota “Sticky” Gas Pedals, which may cause abrupt, unintended acceleration. Sanction: $1.2 billion.
- Early Warning Reporting failures (affecting numerous automobile manufacturers). Early Warning Reports provide critical data to the government regarding potential safety defects. Sanction: over $290 million.
Who Is Eligible For A Reward?
There are strict requirements that a whistleblower must meet in order to be eligible for a reward under the MVSWA. If you believe you qualify, you should contact Newman & Shapiro. To be a whistleblower, you must:
- Be an employee or contractor of an automobile manufacturer, vehicle parts supplier, or automobile dealership
- Have original information, which means information not already known to the Department of Transportation or reported in the media
- Voluntarily provide the information; in other words, it cannot be provided through an investigation, audit, subpoena, or the like
- The information must pertain to a motor vehicle defect, safety noncompliance, safety violation, or alleged violation of any notification or reporting requirement
- The defect, noncompliance, or violation must cause an unreasonable risk of injury or death
- The information must lead to monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million
How Does A Whistleblower Claim A Reward?
A whistleblower whose information leads to a successful resolution of the safety issue can receive between 10 and 30 percent of the collected monetary sanctions. The actual amount of the reward is left up to the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, which is one reason to have a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney represent you.
Factors the Secretary may consider are:
- As appropriate, whether the whistleblower reported or attempted to report the information internally
- The significance of the whistleblower’s information in resolving the issue
- The degree of assistance provided by the whistleblower and any legal representative of the whistleblower
- Any additional relevant information
What Are The Legal Protections For Whistleblowers?
The identity of the whistleblower cannot be disclosed, except in certain limited circumstances. For instance:
- The whistleblower’s identity is required to be disclosed in connection with a public hearing
- The whistleblower gives written consent to be identified
- The Department of Transportation receives information about the safety issue through another source (such as during an inspection or investigation) and has the legal authority to release the information
The information pertaining to the safety violation may need to be given to the defendant. However, the Department of Transportation is required to redact details to protect the whistleblower’s identity. Even if the employer somehow learns of the whistleblower’s identity, he or she cannot legally face retaliation such as termination.
How Can Jeffrey Newman Help Me?
Having an attorney who is familiar with the relevant statutes and procedures governing the MVSWA is essential. If you don’t understand the law, you could inadvertently lose your right to a claim under the reward program.
If an employer implements an internal reporting system, the MVSWA requires the whistleblower to make an internal report before he or she can reach out to the government. There are exceptions if the employee reasonably believes that doing so would result in retaliation, however. Jeffrey Newman can walk you through the requirements under the law and make sure you protect your right to recover.
Jeffrey Newman will also work to protect your anonymity, take legal action in the event of retaliation, and negotiate on your behalf for the most reward possible. Several factors will be taken into account to determine your reward, so you need an attorney who is knowledgeable with the negotiation process.
Contact Our Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Lawsuit Attorney Today
Whistleblowers who act in the public’s interest deserve to be rewarded and protected for their bravery. The MVSWA is a complicated statute, however, which is why you need the experience of Newman & Shapiro. Contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation.