As of June 1st, rental car agencies must fix all open safety defects before renting out vehicles to consumers. The changes comes after an almost decade-long fight by the mother of two children killed due to a defective rental car. After four years of struggling to be passed in Congress and heavy resistance by car rental giants, the Safe Rental Care Act bill was finally passed by a bipartisanship coalition into law.
What Changed in the Law
Previously, car rental companies could continue renting out cars that had known defects and were under recall. This meant that even if the car rental company knew that the car could potentially be hazardous to its drivers or others on the road, it was still legally allowed to rent the car. Obviously, this posed a danger to everyone on the road.
While the car rental company can now be held legally liable for causing injuries or deaths if the car that it rented was involved in a car accident due to a defect, this means very little to those who are permanently disabled or have lifetime injuries due to a car accident. In the case mentioned above, the car rental agency that rented the defective car that killed two women denied that the recalled vehicle was at fault, even going so far as to suggest that the driver of the defective car was suicidal rather than admit responsibility.
More Enforcement, More Safety
Enforcing the new provisions of the Safe Rental Car Act will be the duty of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The administration, which has for years called for car rental agencies to be under their scope of review and enforcement, may now enforce recalls on any company or dealer with fleets greater than 35 vehicles to rent. This means that the NHTSA now also has the authority and power to investigate and punish violators who continue to rent out vehicles with open safety recalls.
Holdouts to Safety
It is important to note that the new law only affects companies and dealers with fleets of more than 35 vehicles to rent. This means that if a person is renting from a car dealership that loans out a small amount of vehicles or a small independent car rental agency, there may still be open safety recalls on the cars available. Legally, they are allowed to do it. Therefore it is important that anyone renting a car always check that there is not an open safety recall. The NHTSA offers consumers a Recall Look-up Tool to determine if the vehicle that they own or are thinking of renting has an open safety recall that needs to be addressed.
Recalls are for Everyone’s Safety
The amendment to the Safe Car Rental Act that exempted owners of small rental fleets was included due to resistance by dealerships and rental agencies to complying with car recalls and the effect that compliance would have on their businesses. However, complying with a recall on a car is no small matter to be brushed off. According the NHTSA, in 2014, there were nearly 900 recalls affecting 51 million vehicles nationwide. This means that of the 253 million cars on the roads, slightly more than one in five vehicles is under a recall notice.
Recalls can cover a variety of issues, but the majority of them are no joke. Many of them can result in serious injury and even death. Just recently, actor Anton Yelchin was killed by his own car when his recalled 2015 Jeep Cherokee rolled down his driveway, pinning him between a brick fence and a mailbox. The car had been recalled by Fiat Chrysler due to a known rollaway risk due to faulty transmissions.
Injuries caused by recalled cars affect everyone. A good example of this is the current Takata airbag recall. Takata is an auto parts manufacturer. The parts that it makes ends up in cars all across the world from dozens of different automakers. The recall, the largest ever in United States’ history, affects over 34 million vehicles.
Central to the Takata airbag recall is a small part called the inflator. When it works properly, it uses a chemical reaction to rapidly inflate the airbag. The airbag then prevents serious injury when the driver is involved in a front-facing collision. When a defective inflator in the Takata airbag expands, it can potentially send shrapnel through the airbag into the face of the driver. So far these airbags have been linked to injuries in over 100 people and 10 deaths in the United States.
Defects Can Play a Major Role in Car Accidents; Consult a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney
A car accident involving a recalled car should immediately be suspect. Many defects in recalled cars may initially appear to be due to the driver’s error, when in reality a malfunctioning or improperly designed part of the car interfered with the driver’s safe operation of the vehicle. When a defective car is involved in a car accident, the party that should be held liable for damages should be the manufacturer and distributor of the defective vehicle. By allowing defective vehicles out on the road, car companies risk everyone’s life.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident involving a recalled car in the greater Los Angeles area, you need representation. Claims involving recalled cars are more complex and require greater care and attention than other car accident claims. This is due to the fact that car manufacturers, even when they admit that there was a faulty part in a vehicle, will not admit to liability in a car accident. Therefore the issue of whether or not a car accident was caused by a defect in the car will always be a contentious matter.
The attorneys at Citywide Law Group in Los Angeles, California have experience in representing car accident victims who have been injured by a defective vehicle. Let their knowledge and skills be put to work for you to help get you the best result possible. Contact them today at (424) 248-2700 or visit them online for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.