The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will investigate whether rental car companies conduct repairs of recalled vehicles before they are released. The announcement came after a petition filed by the Center for Auto Safety with the Federal Trade Commission. The Center for Auto Safety was galvanized into action after Enterprise Holdings Inc. was ordered to pay $15 million in damages to the family of two California sisters who were killed in a fatal accident involving a recalled vehicle they rented from Enterprise.
The two sisters had been driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser that they didn’t know had been recalled for a fire risk safety defect. The Cruiser crashed into a truck, and exploded into flames. The two women were killed instantly. Their parents filed a lawsuit against Enterprise, which continued to insist that the accident was not the company’s fault. However, a jury awarded the parents $15 million in damages, and Enterprise admitted its liability in the accident.
Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is getting involved with what Los Angeles car accident lawyers believe is a very serious problem that places the lives of millions of Americans at risk. In any given year, there are hundreds of auto recalls, and it may not be possible for consumers to be aware of every recall when they rent a car. These people may be at risk of an accident if they drive a vehicle that has been recalled because of a defect. During the Enterprise trial, it came out that the company had an unwritten policy that basically made it acceptable to put recalled cars into service if other cars were unavailable.
The NHTSA will look at whether these rental car companies are performing complete repairs on recalled vehicles. With all this scrutiny, these companies could be coaxed into repairing all defective recalled vehicles before they are leased out.