This blog post is Part II of a two-installment blog reviewing the dangers posed by vehicles that are exempt from the requirement of implementing vehicle defect recalls. Many people do not realize that the requirement to ensure that safety defects are corrected on vehicles prior to making them available to consumers is limited to new vehicle sales. Despite efforts to get defective rental cars and used cars off the road, consumers should confirm that a used car or rental can is not subject to a recall prior to purchasing or renting the vehicle.
Vehicles Exempt from Safety Recalls
Despite proposed legislation intended to close loopholes involving vehicles that are not required to fix defects, public safety remains dependent on voluntary action. The law does not require that a rental car be repaired before it is rented to another customer following issuance of a safety recall. Admittedly, certain rental car agencies voluntarily pull vehicles subject to recall out of circulation, but there are strong economic incentives not to take this step. An article in Fortune magazine discussing this issue indicated that a major vehicle recall can impact one-third of a rental car company’s entire fleet of vehicles.
Under current federal law, a new car dealer cannot sell a vehicle subject to a safety recall until the issue has been fixed. There is no similar requirement imposed on the sell or rental of cars from a rental car agency, used cars, or loaners. The loophole is so large that used car dealerships, rental car companies, and dealerships that provide loaners do not even need to inform customers about significant safety recalls that affect a vehicle.
Danger of Fatal Accidents Caused by Unrepaired Vehicle Defects Claiming Lives
Although it might be tempting to dismiss this potential dangers as more theoretical than actual, the loophole that allows certain categories of defective vehicles to remain on our roads have caused traffic fatalities and catastrophic injuries, such as the following:
- Two sisters tragically perished in a vehicle fire when they were driving a rental car that had been recalled because of a fire hazard.
- A woman rented a car with an airbag that was subject to recall. She suffered significant injuries when her defective airbag failed to deploy during a crash.
- A California Highway Patrol officer and three family members were involved in a horrific crash when their loaner Lexus suddenly accelerated unexpectedly until it reached a top speed of 120 mph. The vehicle went over an embankment and burst into flame. Three vehicle occupants died in the crash.
These high profile examples demonstrate that unrepaired vehicle defects are actually causing harm to unsuspecting drivers and vehicle occupants who have no idea they might be driving a moving death trap.
Efforts to Require Compliance with Safety Recalls for All Vehicles Have Failed
Traffic safety advocates and lawmakers have been promoting new legislation to mitigate the danger posed by this loophole for years. However, there is an increased urgency because of the seriousness and scope of recent vehicle defects. Some rental car companies have voluntarily entered into an agreement not to re-rent recalled cars until safety issues have been addressed. Unfortunately, these voluntarily measures have left millions of defective used vehicles and rental cars on our roads.
While federal lawmakers and regulators have been slow to formally respond to this risk, motorists are not without remedies when defects cause accidents. When a defect causes a collision involving a vehicle exempt from recall requirements, the following parties might be liable for significant injuries or death:
- Manufacturer of the vehicle
- Rental car agency that re-rents the defective vehicle
- Used car dealership that sells a defective vehicle to an unsuspecting consumer
- New car dealership that furnishes a loaner to a customer while the customer’s car is
These parties might be liable along with other negligent parties who constitute a substantial factor in causing an auto accident, such as other drivers, public entities, vehicle repair shops, vehicle owners, employers of negligent drivers and others.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, P.A.: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence
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