In order to protect consumers, federal law generally prohibits individuals and businesses from selling a new car that is under recall and that does not comply with federal standards. However, when it comes to used cars and rental cars, the public currently is on its own. This means that, every day, thousands of Americans drive or ride in rental vehicles that are potentially the subject of a safety recall.
The loophole that allows rental car companies to continue renting out recalled vehicles has resulted in at least one known tragedy. In a case that made nationwide news, in 2004, two sisters, Rachel and Jacqueline Houck, of Santa Cruz, California, were killed when the Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car caught on fire after fluid from a power steering hose leaked onto the vehicle’s hot engine. The driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into an oncoming semi-tractor trailer. The rental car had been under recall for this very issue, but it was not repaired and Enterprise continued to rent the vehicle out despite the open recall. The Houck family sued Enterprise, and after legal action, the rental car company admitted negligence and was required to pay the family $15 million in damages.
Last year, a bill was introduced in Congress by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), which would have stopped car rental companies from renting out vehicles that are the subject of federal safety recalls until the vehicles had been properly repaired as required under the terms of the relevant recall. However, the bill was defeated.
Changes Being Sought To Rental Car Recall Loophole
While current law does not require rental car companies and used car dealers to fix a recalled vehicle or even notify a potential buyer or renter of the defect, lawmakers are considering making this a requirement in the future. That is because the United States Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, and others are calling on Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit rental car companies and used car dealers from renting or selling vehicles that are currently the subject of an open recall.
According to Secretary Foxx, “Every vehicle under an open safety recall should be repaired as soon as possible.” He continued, “Requiring rental car agencies and used car dealers to fix defective vehicles before renting is a commonsense solution that would make our roads safer. The suggested law is part of the proposed Grow America Act, which is a transportation reauthorization bill that seeks funding for our nation’s highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems.
Protecting Your Safety If You Are Renting A Vehicle
When picking up a rental vehicle, it is always important to take the time to inspect inside and outside the car and look for any obvious signs of mechanical problems or danger. Also, take the time to consult the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) website to check the recall status of any vehicle you are considering renting or buying.
Tallahassee Legal Help For Rental Car Accident Victims
If you have been injured in a rental car accident that was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of the rental car company or another driver, the personal injury attorneys at Fasig & Brooks can help you recover for you pain, suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and other losses related to your accident. Call us today to tell us about your particular circumstances. Our experienced and helpful Tallahassee attorneys can be reached at (850) 222-3232 or by using our convenient online contact form.