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Tuesday
Jan262016

On the Road: Safer Rental Cars

Injury Attorney Los AngelesAccident Attorney

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

A mind boggling number of cars are on the recall list for safety problems – including about 34 million American vehicles for defective Takata airbags alone. Additionally, last year was a record for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which levied nearly $300 million in fines against Takata, Honda, Chrysler and BMW, according to Car and Driver.

Defective Cars

Recalls and fines are all well and good for holding automakers and their suppliers accountable for safety but sometimes, it takes solid legislation to curb the defects that injure and kill drivers and their passengers. That may come with the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.

The Safe Rental Car Act is named for two sisters driving north from Ojai to Santa Cruz in a rented PT Cruiser in 2004. While driving, the car swerved off California Highway 101, hit an oncoming 18-wheeler and then burst into flames.

Initially the rental company blamed bad driving, and even speculated the accident wasn’t an accident at all – that Raechel (the driver) committed suicide and killed her sister as well.  The truth however, is that there was a recall for PT Cruisers because of faulty power steering hoses, which potentially could lead to loss of steering and fires.

There were no laws prohibiting vehicle rental companies from continuing to loan out cars despite these dangerous recalls. In fact, an area manager for Enterprise (the company that rented the car to the Houck sisters) said that it was corporate policy to rent out unrepaired, recalled vehicles if no other cars were available.

Cally Houck, mother of Raechel and Jacqueline, spearheaded a campaign to put a stop to this policy, which she considers “corporate malfeasance”. Enterprise admitted liability and was ordered by a jury to pay the Houck parents $15 million in 2010. The company began supporting the Houck Bill shortly thereafter, and was soon followed by Hertz and Avis.

The Houck Bill: Corporate Roll Call

Since then, several organizations and corporations (including the American Car Rental Association, Honda and General Motors) eventually helped champion Houck’s cause.

On the other hand, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association opposed the bill, citing less dangerous defects like mislabeled parts and other minor issues which may prohibit companies from getting their cars leased or sold.

Chrysler, maker of the PT Cruiser and company subject to some of those NHTSA fines mentioned above, was opposed to the Safe Rental Car Act.  

Car Recall

The bill also found opposition with car dealers, who feared a law that could pit large rental companies against consumers – who should the dealerships service first, given a finite number of parts and services available? Auto dealers also argued that they shouldn’t be treated like rental companies, as they only keep a few cars on hand as “loaner vehicles” when customers come in for service. 

Safer Cars: Where Do we Stand Now?

The Houck Safe Rental Car Act passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and was then signed by President Obama as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. It amended §30102(a) of title 49, U.S. Code. The law now affects (a) vehicles under 10,000 pounds, (b) rented without a driver for less than four months, (c) that are part of a fleet of 35 or more vehicles (most auto dealers providing “loaner” vehicles will be exempt from the law under this condition) used for rental purposes. 

  1. Rental companies will not be able to rent or sell vehicles once they receive notification of a recall approved by the NHTSA until the defect is remedied. 

  2. Companies must comply within 24 hours of notice, unless the company has more than 5,000 vehicles in service. In that case, vehicles must be grounded within 48 hours of notice. 

  3. A company may rent, but not sell or lease, recalled vehicles if the remedy is not immediately available and if the company takes action to eliminate the risk (i.e. the company may remove defective floor mats that may jam under gas and brake pedals, should replacement mats not be immediately available from the manufacturer). 

The Secretary of Transportation will submit a congressional report within a year of enactment of the Safe Rental Car Act, regarding the effectiveness of the amendments and findings of related studies.

This may not be the far-reaching safety bill that Cally Houck initially intended, but hopefully, it will help prevent or at least minimize the number of truly horrible accidents like the one that took her daughters’ lives, from occurring in the future.

David B. Bobrosky is a Shareholder in our Personal Injury Practice Group

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Dec012011

Safe Toys - Your Holiday Guide

Personal Injury Attorney Los AngelesDefective Product Attorney 

 

 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

The holiday shopping season is here, and now is the perfect time to brush up on safe toys buying guidelines.

Whether you’re a parent, relative or family friend of someone with children, you want to make sure that the toy you are giving will not pose a risk to that child – assuming of course, that all toys meet government toy safety standards.

But as we know too well, sometimes defective products slip through the cracks. That being said, you should first get up to date information on toy recalls before you go shopping. There’s a rather extensive list available here: Toy Hazard Recalls.

Then, ensure you pick an age appropriate toy for the child to minimize risks like choking hazards, electric shock or burns, strangulation, falls and other dangers.

When it comes to dangerous toys, here are five key dangers that you should look for:

1. Electric Toys – When it comes to small children, these toys generally require adult supervision. You should not only note the age recommendation, but consider also how mature or responsible the child is, before buying electric toys.

2. Balls & Marbles – The smaller the ball and the younger the child, the greater the risk of choking hazards. Also be careful of giving games or toys that have balls to older children with younger siblings. Generally speaking, balls 1 ¾ inches in diameter or less are dangerous for children under three.

3. Toy or Game Pieces – Again, follow the guidelines for balls, above. If the toy or game you’re about to buy has pieces that are smaller than 1 ¾ inches, think twice before giving that toy or game to a small child.

4. Inflatable Toys or Balloons and Squeeze Toys – There’s a suffocation risk with these, either when a child attempts to inflate the toy and accidentally inhales, or with smaller children who chew on toys (squeeze toys, burst balloon pieces, or deflated toys).

5. Straps – Toys with strings or straps are particularly dangerous for children under three, as toddlers sometimes get entangled in these. Watch out for items like toy guitars, purses and guns that come with shoulder straps.

 

Other Toy Safety Tips

 

The five most common types of dangerous toys are listed above, but there are other toy safety factors that you should be aware of as well. For example: 

  • Brittle plastic toys can break, leaving jagged pieces that can cut or puncture children.

  • Helmets are required by California law for bicycle riders under 18. If you’re buying a bike for minor, make sure you buy the right sized helmet too.

  • And of course, BB Guns and cap guns pose their own, obvious risks for children. 

 

Lead Paint Toy Recalls

 

Believe it or not, lead poisoning is still a problem for children, especially the younger ones. Young children are especially prone to putting things in their mouths.

The federal government limits the amount of lead that can be used in products, but the metal has not been banned entirely. It’s used in plastics, pottery, jewelry, sporting goods and hobby materials.

To keep your child safe from lead poisoning from toys, try to avoid giving toys and jewelry made in other countries, or recycling older toys made in the U.S.

 

Holiday Safety First

 

The most important thing to remember regarding toy safety, is to buy toys that are age appropriate for the child. Read all warning labels on the packaging and consider the maturity level of the child.

Because no matter how wonderful the gift you intend to give, nothing can beat keeping your loved ones safe and happy. Let’s make sure all the memories are good ones this holiday season.

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Product Liability Attorney. Contact him via e-mail: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.990.2120.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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