Like many consumers, Cally Houck thought rental car companies could not legally rent recalled vehicles. Then, her two daughters died in a car accident caused by a defective rental car.
The two girls – Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20 – died in 2004 after driving home from visiting their mother Cally. The Chrysler PT Cruiser they rented had been recalled the month before, because of a potential power steering fluid leak. The leak caused a fire under the hood, and loss of power steering control.
“There had to be some sort of law that prohibits this practice,” said Mrs. Houck, a California lawyer. “We learned there was no such law.”
Before, rental car companies were not obligated to find and repair potential defects in any recalled model.
Houck sued Enterprise – the company her daughters had rented from – and last year was awarded $15 million in personal injury claims. Fortunately, Houck did not stop at a personal injury lawsuit, but became an advocate for better automotive safety legislation.
This past Thursday, September 27th, Houck joined US Democratic senators Charles Schumer of NY, and Barbara Boxer of California, in Washington to announce that the five largest car rental companies have all agreed to support legislation making it illegal to rent recalled vehicles until defects have been fixed.
The five companies are Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar Thrifty, and National. Together, they represent 93% of the car rental industry.
“This historic agreement will be a major improvement in auto safety, particularly since rental car companies are the largest purchases of new vehicles in the nation,” a coalition of consumer groups and relatives said in a statement.
“I want to commend the rental car industry for their earnest and sincere effort to reach an agreement and consensus with lawmakers and the safety community in committing to this common-sense legislation that will prevent future tragedies such as my family endured,” Houck said.
While there has been no specific state or federal oversight, Enterprise and Hertz both said that they had policies in place saying the company could not rent or sell recalled vehicles until they were repaired. However, according to spokesperson Laura Bryant for Enterprise, customers told the company directly that they would feel better with federal oversight.
The lawmakers said in their Thursday announcement that they hope the Senate will pass the bill this year.
If you or a loved one have been in an auto accident as a result of a defective vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation. The personal injury attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so contact us today.803.252.4800.