Vehicle manufacturers often boast about the high car safety ratings their vehicles have been given, but even consumers who buy cars with high safety ratings can find themselves requiring the assistance of a lemon law attorney. Consumers may be interested in knowing that although a 5-Star vehicle safety rating may indicate a lower than average risk for injury in a car crash, it does not necessarily mean that a vehicle is free from safety concerns or material defects that may ultimately lead to a lemon law claim.

In 1978, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program to provide consumers with information on the level of safety they are investing in when they purchase a new or used vehicle. Car safety ratings measure vehicle safety by testing vehicle performance and durability during collisions including rollover accidents. Car safety ratings must be provided to consumers for all new vehicle sales and can be found on the new car sticker usually displayed in a window of the vehicle. By 2011, the administration had updated the car safety ratings system to include more comprehensive and advanced testing to ensure that consumers could make educated decisions when choosing to invest in a vehicle. Vehicles are rated one through five on the safety scale with a rating of one indicating a greater than average injury risk and a rating of five indicating a lower than average risk for injury.

While car safety ratings assist purchasers in making an educated decision when choosing to buy a car, car safety ratings alone are not the only aspect to consider. The government often has concerns over certain parts or components of a vehicles and alert consumers to these concerns through the use of a question mark symbol on a vehicle’s rating label. The government’s concern may involve safety problems relating to structural issues or performance matters but does not necessarily affect the overall score a vehicle is given for its car safety rating. What this means for the consumer is that a vehicle can have a high safety rating while exhibiting structural or performance problems that the government believes could be a safety issue. Consumers are understood to be on notice of these safety concerns through the use of the question mark symbol.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s car safety rating system can be confusing, especially when considering that some safety concerns are not considered when rating a specific vehicle. Another aspect that can be misleading to consumers is understanding that just because a vehicle has a high car safety rating, that rating does not necessarily mean that the vehicle will not experience material defects that could affect the use, value or safety of the consumer’s vehicle. Defects such as these, that a manufacturer or its agent is unable to resolve within a reasonable number of repair attempts, may indicate the necessity of a lemon law suit. Ultimately, a vehicle with a 5-Star safety rating could be manufactured with a material defect that may require the use of a lemon law attorney and the filing of a lemon law claim.