Senators Propose Measures to Address Recalled, Unrepaired Vehicles on Nation’s Highways

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2014 was undoubtedly the year of the vehicle recall. The more than 63 million cars, trucks, and SUVs that were recalled last year smashed previous annual recall records as the Takata airbag and GM ignition switch recalls accounted for more than 20 million recalled vehicles, alone. A broad array of additional defects affecting automobile systems, design and functionality plagued vehicles throughout the year.

The automobile defect attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm are dedicated to informing the public regarding known defects and dangers found in popular vehicle models. While these defects have been identified, that does not mean that the risk has passed.

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What Were the Major Vehicle Defects of 2014?

As has been discussed extensively on this blog and on a number of recall pages provided for our readers’ reference, the major recalls for 2014 were the GM ignition switch recall and the Takata airbag inflator recall. Each problem is extremely serious and can result in severe injury or death.

The GM ignition switch defect was revealed in early 2014 when the recall was first initiated. However, signs of the problem had been present for at least 13 years. In fact, the first sign of the defect occurred back in 2001, after GM engineers experienced problems with the ignition switch on the Saturn Ion. This problem is the same one that would persist over the course of the next decade. That is, the vehicles were prone to lose power and move out of the run position when the keys are jostled or bumped. When the vehicles lose power, the driver is unable to steer or accelerate. Furthermore, integral safety systems, such as the airbags, are rendered non-operational by the loss of power. Needless to say, such a defect can cause or exacerbate the injuries suffered in a crash.

The Takata exploding airbag inflator defect was initially believed to be limited to high-humidity climates, but instances of the defect outside of these zones motivated federal regulators to push for a nationwide recall. The defect causes the inflator in the airbag to deploy with too much force which can launch pieces of metal shrapnel into the vehicle’s cabin. These pieces of metal shrapnel have inflicted fatal injuries to the neck and throats of vehicle occupants.

What is the Problem Regarding These Cars if They’ve Already Been Recalled?

While it is true that these vehicles have been recalled, in both instances there was a parts shortage that caused many owners to delay seeking the repair. As the vehicle ages and the recall becomes more remote in time, people are less likely to take the car or truck in for a remedy. In fact, federal regulators believe that the recall repair rate is only about 75%. In light of studies that find it takes more than 10 years for the US auto fleet to turn-over, that means that dangerous, defective vehicles could remain on the roads for a decade or longer. This results in exposure to avoidable and unnecessary risk.

The Recall Act Would Require States to Oversee Repairs As Part of Registration Process

In recognition of the hazards and risks created by defective vehicles remaining on US highways and roadways, Senators Markey and Blumenthal have proposed the RECALL Act which is intended to spur drivers with known, open recalls to get their vehicle repaired.

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The legislation would function by requiring state motor vehicle authorities to search the open recall database by VIN and notify a vehicle owner of open recalls on or by the date that the agency would advise the owner of the need to re-register the vehicle. In the instance of a new vehicle registration, the vehicle owner must be notified of defects prior to the completion of registration. Unless an exception applies, the open recalls must be remedied before the state can permit the vehicle to be registered or re-registered. Exceptions to the rule include:

  • If the local dealership has been unable to provide the replacement parts necessary for the remedy.
  • If the local dealership has been unable to provide trained personnel to install the remedy or otherwise correct the defective condition.
  • The motorist did not receive notice of the open and unrepaired defect on or before the registration notice.
  • The owner was not provided with a reasonable chance to secure these fixes.

To encourage state compliance with the law, those states that are deemed noncompliant would lose up to 5% of annual federal transportation funding.  While the legislation is still merely a bill, the furor over last year’s record number of recalls and automaker’s reluctance to be forthcoming may provide the political capital necessary to pass this bill or similar legislation into law.

Rely on our Defective Product Experience After a Serious Injury

For more than three decades, the dedicated attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm have fought for those injured by defective products such as cars, trucks and SUVs. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation call (215) 246-9000 today.

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