Regulatory flaws create unexpected crash injury risks

There was a time when car sales was considered the least trustworthy profession in the country. Today, according to the Gallup polling company, members of Congress sit at the bottom of the barrel. We aren't sure whether a survey of Cincinnati residents would match those national rankings, but it's probably fair to say the results wouldn't vary much.

Ohio law doesn't do a great deal to protect consumers in regards to used car purchases. The state's lemon law does bar dealers from misrepresenting facts about a car. They also have to disclose the mileage of vehicles they're selling. If a car has a salvage title, that has to be revealed, as well. But that doesn't reveal if there might be a defective auto part that could cause a crash and lead to debilitating injury.

Hole in the regulatory net

The case of a young woman out of Nevada serves as a prime example. She was involved in what was described to be a relatively minor crash in March. She was driving her family's 2002 Honda Accord when it happened. The crash was enough to trigger the safety air bag. The force of that explosion shattered the metal inflation canister, sending shrapnel into the girl's neck. It punctured her trachea and damaged her vocal cords. At last word, she faces additional surgery and will likely need speech therapy.

The problem is that the car she was driving was a salvage vehicle and the air bag that deployed was a Takata air bag - one of the tens of millions subject to a government safety recall because of degraded inflation systems. Investigation revealed that the bag was pulled from a 2001 wreck. Experts speculate it must have been recovered at a salvage yard and either stolen or resold for use in the 2002 car.

There is a federal law that's supposed to prohibit such things, but enforcement is lax. There's also no central database for salvagers to check if they had a mind to do that.

The absence of a clear paper trail doesn't mean victims of accidents like this one have no legal recourse. The way to determine what options may exist, though, is to ask an experienced attorney for an assessment of your case. 

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