Some of our nation’s largest auto rental companies may be putting lives at risk by routinely renting out recalled vehicles without first getting the suggested manufacturer’s fixes.
Executives for Enterprise rent-a-car admitted to this practice during a California court case involving the car crash deaths of two sisters. The women rented a Chrysler PT cruiser in October 2004. This was one month after a recall notice was sent to Enterprise letting them know that the engine in the vehicle could catch on fire and crash from a possible leak in the vehicle’s power steering. Unfortunately this is exactly what happened. The women were on their way to visit their parents when the engine caught on fire. The vehicle hit an on-coming tractor-trailer and the women died instantly.
The personal injury attorneys who represented the family of the victims found that Enterprise did not take the vehicle for the required fix, and the PT Cruiser had been rented out three times since the company received the recall notice from Crysler.
According to an ABC News article, Enterprise spent five years claiming that the driver of the recalled vehicle was suicidal and caused the accident herself. Two weeks before the case came to trial, Enterprise finally admitted negligence. A jury awarded the family $15 million for their wrongful death claim.
Enterprise and other national rent-a-car companies including Avis and Hertz acknowledged that they have no company wide policy that requires cars under recall to be repaired before rental.
Recalled vehicles are big news this year. Toyota recalled millions of defective vehicles for problems that could cause sudden acceleration leading to a crash. BMW, Acura, Chrysler, GM, Jeep and Honda have all announced recalls in 2010. Consumers can check to see if their personal or rental vehicle has been recalled at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
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