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Federal lawmakers consider legislation over defective rental cars

October 14, 2014

Millions of cars are recalled each year in Illinois and the rest of the United States.  Manufacturers and dealerships are required by law to contact owners of these cars for repair, but currently rental car companies are not legally bound to pull recalled vehicles from the road or disclose the recall information to their customers.

In 2004, two sisters were in a fatal crashinvolving a rental car with an unrepaired safety recall. Since then, their mother, Carol Houck, has worked with lawmakers to draft a bill that would require the companies to pull recalled vehicles from the fleet until they are repaired. This bill was originally introduced in 2011, but did not gain enough support to pass through the Senate at the time. In 2013, Senators Charles Schumer of New York, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Barbara Boxer of California and Claire McCaskill of Missouri reintroduced the bill as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013.

Legislation would hold rental car companies responsible

This bill states that a rental company with more than 5,000 vehicles must ground any recalls within 48 hours of receiving the notice, while smaller fleets have only 24 hours. If the manufacturer lists safety steps to eliminate the risk until parts are available, the companies may continue to rent out the car. The bill would give authority over the compliance of the companies to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and is supported by the American Car Rental Association.

The opposition fears a loss of profits

Some rental car companies, including Hertz, Enterprise Holdings and Avis Budget Group, have changed their policies and support the bill. However, there are still many who oppose the efforts to pass it, fearing a loss of income while the cars are not available for rental.

Auto manufacturers agree that all repairs should be made in a timely manner, but they will not support the bill unless it offers protection from lawsuits brought by rental car companies over lost revenue. They also contend that every recall does not present a hazard, and that a system is needed to determine the impact of the recall on the vehicle’s safety. Regulators say that, by definition, all recalls are issued because of the potential for the risk of serious injuryor death.

Due to the strong opposition, lawmakers do not expect the bill to pass. If it does not, they may include it in a bigger piece of legislation. All vehicle recalls are listed online at www.safecar.gov, but until full disclosure is mandatory, an individual who rents a car should research information about the vehicle’s recall status.

Victims of car crashes involving defective rental carsare limited in their ability to hold the rental car company responsible. It is important to contact a personal injury attorney with knowledge of the Illinois legal system to ensure that full compensation is received.

If you have been injured in a personal injury or medical malpractice accident, do not hesitate to contact the Chicago accident and injury law firm of Cogan & Power at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free case consultation, so that we can help you begin the process of recovery as soon as possible. If you cannot come to our offices in downtown Chicago, we will come to you. And because we take cases on a contingency basis, you will not pay any fee unless we get you compensation.