Law’s Loophole May Have Allowed Seller to Neglect Recall
17 year-old Huma Hanif is the latest victim of the Takata airbag defect. The young woman ran into a car on a Houston highway, causing the airbags to deploy. Instead of providing a cushion against the crash’s impact, the Takata airbag ruptured and sent sharp metal fragments into the car’s cabin. One piece fatally pierced Huma’s neck.
The lead investigator said the teen was not speeding and that the car sustained very little damage. Ironically, had the airbags not deployed, she would almost certainly have walked away with only minor injuries.
Huma was the 11th person — and second Texan — to die from these exploding “safety devices.”
A whopping 24 million vehicles have been recalled by almost every major manufacturer. And the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that another 85 million inflaters that cause the deadly explosions may be defective.
As I often say, what the hell is going on out there?
Law Does Not Require Repair of Used Vehicles Before Resale
The teen’s family insists they never received a recall notice about the Honda Civic’s airbag defect. Honda counters that the company sent four recalls to registered owners. Crash investigators are looking into whether the vehicle was properly recalled.
But, in either case, how could a car with this deadly defect still have been on the road?
A shocking loophole may be responsible. The family bought the Honda Civic used. The law does not require a previous owner to repair a recalled vehicle before selling it to a new owner.
A new federal law that requires rental companies to repair their recalled vehicles takes effect in June. Surprisingly, the law does not apply to used car dealers, meaning they can still sell unrepaired cars to new owners.
A buyer has some protection under consumer unfair and deceptive practices regulations if the dealer failed to disclose the defect and recall notification. Nonetheless, this loophole permits a dangerous vehicle to be driven off the lot and puts the onus on the buyer to make the repair.
Recall System Must Be Fixed
The recall system is obviously broken. Simply sending a letter to registered owners about dangerous car defects is not enough. Vehicle owners might mistake a letter from Honda for junk mail or the letter might get lost during delivery or once it arrives.
Despite being inundated with television and Internet advertisements from auto manufacturers, I haven’t seen a single ad about the danger of Takata airbags, GM ignition switches or any other vehicle recall. If these companies can spend millions on marketing their products, they can certainly afford to advertise a deadly defect so consumers can act.
We also receive plenty of annoying unsolicited sales calls at our homes. I think it is reasonable to expect vehicle manufacturers to also call registered owners about dangerous motor vehicle defects. Auto manufacturers can also reach owners through social media, emails and text messages.
Automobile corporations are not going to act unless pushed by the law to do so. We need regulations that require effective notification of owners about vehicle defects.
How Do You Know If Your Vehicle Is Safe?
Are you still driving one of the 24 million cars that have been recalled? Log on to www.safercar.gov and type in your VIN number or take your vehicle to your dealer immediately.
Berenson Injury Law pursues auto manufacturers and car dealerships for injures caused by defective vehicles.