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Federal lawmakers seek increase in auto recall fines

Later this week, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hear a bill which, if passed, will significantly increase the potential fines to automakers who delay automobile recalls for any reason. The bill also aims to toughen safety requirements for car manufacturers and commercial bus companies in the wake of several fatal car and bus accidents that have taken place in recent months.

The bill was created in response to the massive product recalls instituted by Toyota following the concerns about sudden acceleration in several Toyota vehicles. The most controversial aspect of the proposed law would be an increase in the fines for automakers who delay the recalls of defective products. Currently, the maximum fine is $17.35 million. Under the new law, the maximum fine would increase to $250 million.

Of course, this change has been opposed by several auto industry groups including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The proposed increases are so out of proportion either to the current penalty structure or the penalty structure for other manufacturers under the Consumer Product Safety Act as to appear unfairly punitive," the groups said.

In addition to the proposed fine increase, the bill would also create additional design requirements for cars, such as requiring the installation of "brake override" systems and banning television screens within drivers' eyesight. The bill also aims to overhaul the commercial bus industry by requiring electronic on-board recorders to ensure that drivers' are complying with hours of service rules.

If you or a family member has been injured in a car accident involving a poorly-designed or defective automobile, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: The Detroit News, "Automakers oppose bill to hike fines for delaying recalls," David Shepardson, Dec. 12, 2011

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