Used Chevy Impalas sold by rental company Enterprise Rent-A-Car were missing a standard safety feature, the Kansas City Star reported Aug. 15. Side air bags were standard on Impalas sold to consumers between 2006 and 2008, the article said — but Enterprise asked the manufacturer to delete that option when it placed its order, as a cost-saving measure. When the cars were later retired from the fleet and sold as used cars, the Star reported, consumers may have mistakenly believed they came with the same standard equipment other Impalas had. Furthermore, the newspaper found that hundreds of online advertisements by Enterprise incorrectly touted the cars as having front and rear side air bags.
Safety experts consider side curtain air bags important because side-impact crashes are the second deadliest kind of crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, side-impact crashes caused 17.4% of all fatal crashes in 2007, second only to head-on crashes (32.2% of fatal crashes). And according to the Star article, studies have found that side air bags with head protection reduce drivers’ deaths by 45% in driver-side collisions. Side air bags are not federally required, as front air bags are, but observers expect side air bags to be near-universally standard soon, in order to comply with stricter federal side-impact safety rules taking effect Sept. 1.
According to the article, Enterprise ordered about 66,000 Impalas nationwide without the side air bags. This did not violate federal safety standards, the company said, and helped save $175 per car, for a total of $11.5 million. Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research organization funded by auto insurance companies, called the decision “astounding.” He noted that used-car buyers researching safety ratings could be misled, because cars are rated according to their standard safety features, and suggested that Enterprise’s decision could provoke numerous car accident lawsuits in Missouri and around the U.S. He and another safety expert said deleting a standard safety feature is not a practice they’d ever heard of before.
In response to the article, Enterprise pulled the incorrect advertisements off its Web site and said it planned to correct the information. It also said it would write to the owners of the 745 Impalas it had already sold to explain the problem and offer to buy the cars back at $750 over their Kelly Blue Book value.
As a St. Louis car crash lawyer, I have read a lot of the research into the dangers of side-impact crashes. They are considered extremely dangerous, in part because they can cause jagged metal and broken glass to protrude into the passenger area of the car, endangering all the occupants nearby. They can also trigger a rollover accident, which throws occupants around the inside of the vehicle or out of it, exposing them to head injuries and spinal cord damage that can leave them permanently disabled. Parents and others concerned about safety may well want to look up which vehicles contain side air bags before renting or buying — but when Enterprise and other sellers provide misleading information, consumers can’t make well-informed decisions. If they are later involved in a serious accident and discover that they’re missing the air bags they thought they had, the law says they may hold the sellers legally liable for their injuries.
If you were misled in this way by a seller or manufacturer, and you were seriously hurt as a result, you should call the Lowe Law Firm. Based in St. Louis and Belleville, Ill., we represent people throughout Missouri and southern Illinois who were seriously hurt in car, truck and motorcycle accidents. That includes accidents that were exacerbated by the lack of safety features you reasonably expected or were told the vehicle had, as well as accidents caused by plain old careless driving. Our Missouri car wreck attorneys help accident victims hold these wrongdoers legally responsible for their actions and win compensation for all of the damage the accident caused. That includes payment of your medical bills and lost income from time off work, as well as compensation for your physical pain, injuries, and any permanent disability or wrongful death.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free, confidential consultations to all potential clients. To set one up and learn more about your legal options, please contact us through our Web site or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.