The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency of the US Department of Transportation, recently announced that rental car agencies have a legal obligation to fix major safety defects prior to renting vehicles to customers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and everywhere else in the country. The ruling could have a major impact on the liability of car rental companies and spur a number of personal injury lawsuits and product liability lawsuits in the future.
The announcement was made by Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Foxx said that the new rule is being implemented because individuals who rent motor vehicles while on vacation should feel confident that their cars are “free of any known safety defect.” Foxx specifically noted that there are often multiple passengers in rental cars because families on vacation usually need a vehicle to get around in – which can lead to multiple injured parties, or even multiple fatalities, when a vehicle defect results in a serious car accident. This is particularly true on congested roads in certain NJ hotspots, such as the Jersey Shore during the summer.
Dr. Mark Rosekind, the NHTSA Administrator and a major advocate of the new law, also commended lawmakers for implementing the new rule. Rosekind said that the federal auto safety agency will now have “one more tool to protect the safety of U.S. motorists.”
US Congress Passes New Auto Safety Law
The NHTSA needed backing for the new rule from the United States Congress, which passed a federal law that bars rental companies from renting unrepaired vehicles with known defects or safety issues. Congress and the NHTSA took action after Raechel Houck and Jacqueline Houck, sisters, died in a fatal car accident. At the time of the tragic car crash, the sisters were in a rental car that had actually been recalled due to safety issues.
The newly implemented law, which was attached to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, applies to any motor vehicles that have previously been recalled by auto manufacturers due to design or manufacturing defects. This is a major change to previous federal law, which did not extend the NHTSA’s vehicle recall authority to rental car agencies and dealers. Now the NHTSA will have the ability to investigate and punish car rental companies that fail to comply with mandatory vehicle recalls. Last year, more than 51 million vehicles were recalled in the United States.
Importantly, the law will not be cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses that are just barely getting by because the new rule only applies to car rental agencies with fleets of more than 35 vehicles.
For more information, go to the following article: Effective Today: New Federal law for recalled rental cars protects consumers from vehicle safety defects