As of June 1, 2016, for the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to investigate and punish rental car agencies for renting cars that are subject to a recall. Rental car companies must now fix any recalled car before it is rented or remove it from their fleet entirely.
Most rental car drivers assume their vehicle has been inspected and is safe to drive. The sad reality, however, is that rental car businesses previously had no legal responsibility to check for recalls and repair them, so they often ignored recalls or took an extremely long time to repair the vehicles.
Background Of The New Law
Congress recently passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. This law was inspired by the Houck sisters—Raechel and Jacqueline. The Houck sisters were both killed in a car accident in 2004 that involved a vehicle they had rented, that was also under a recall. The steering fluid leaked in their vehicle, causing them to lose control of the car. The sisters hit a big rig, and the car burst into flames shortly thereafter.
Their parents brought a wrongful death lawsuit that concluded in 2010. Their parents were awarded $15 million in their suit against Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
A Step In The Right Direction
Proponents of the law are thrilled at its passing because it can prevent injury and death for those who rent cars from any car company who has 35 or more vehicles in their fleet. The new law allows NHTSA to protect drivers in a new way, hopefully decreasing the effects of the 51 million recalled vehicles in the United States.
Next, proponents hope to force used car dealerships to check recalls and fix recalled vehicles before selling them to unsuspecting customers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident that was likely caused by a recalled vehicle or part, you have legal rights. O’Connor Acciani & Levy’s product liability lawyers can help you determine if you have a valid legal claim by providing a free case evaluation.