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New bill would give US regulator more power over vehicle recalls

Under a pending law, in Congress on March 30 regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have more authority over automobile manufacturers to stop them from selling vehicles with suspected defects and to push forward recalls of these vehicles. The pending legislation, part of a six-year transportation bill, would affect automobile manufacturers throughout the country, including Georgia. The bill would also require used car dealers to search their inventories for any vehicle models affected by recalls and take appropriate action. The law would also increase the penalties for manufacturers not adhering to recall orders from $35 million to $300 million.

The bill comes after a record year for automobile recalls in 2014. In 2014, 803 vehicle recalls in the United States affected 63.95 million vehicles. When automobile manufacturers do not adhere to recalls, the NHTSA can take them to court, but the process can take a number of years.

Lawmakers expected the bill to receive opposition from automakers. In 2010, automobile industry leaders spent over $40 million on lobbying efforts to bring changes to a transportation bill meant to impose harsher penalties on manufacturers and bring stricter standards for electronic components in vehicles.

When an auto defect appears to be responsible for a car accident, a driver may be able to bring a car defect liability suit against the manufacturer of the product and/or the parts to obtain damages for medical bills and lost wages. Sometimes courts will also award punitive damages. In this type of lawsuit, a plaintiff's attorney would need to be able to show that the vehicle was dangerous in some way, had not been altered and was used correctly by the client. Non-adherence to a product recall could potentially help to show strict liability on the part of the manufacturer.

Source: International Business Times, "Auto Recalls: US Regulator Would Gain 'Stop-Sale' Authority Over Carmakers If White House Transportation Bill Passes," Angelo Young, March 31, 2014

Source: FindLaw, "Car Defect Injury Claims," accessed on April 8, 2015

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