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Personal Injury

Government's power to order vehicle recalls long overdue

It’s “incredible” there was no system in place to allow the federal government to recall a dangerous vehicle until very recently, Barrie-area personal injury lawyer Steve Rastin tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

The Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act, which received royal assent on March 1, “provides the federal transport minister with the power to order car companies to recall a vehicle to correct a defect, conduct tests and fix a new vehicle before it is sold,” the article reports.

“Transport Canada is also given the power to impose fines to manufacturers of up to $200,000 per violation for any contraventions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, as well as broader inspection authorities to investigate defects,” it continues.

Rastin, managing partner of Rastin & Associates, tells the publication Canada is finally catching up with most of the industrialized world.

“I think the rest of the auto industry would be hard-pressed to argue that we shouldn’t be at the same level as our friends in western Europe or the United States,” he says. “For example, the government can issue a recall on lettuce or a bad batch of medicine. In this age of autonomous cars, the risk for public harm is intense, so I don’t know how the industry can argue this is anything but a good idea.”

Rastin says the Act is necessary because motor vehicle litigation is going to move from tort to product liability in the next 20 years as self-driving cars and adaptive technology become more popular.

“As we identify challenges if something’s not designed right, I think that if we don’t have a robust central government protecting consumers it has the possibility to spell disaster,” he says. “If [the car companies] do have a technological problem in this age of massive reliance on technology, the product liability implications could be huge.”

He also tells the legal publication that technology and human behaviour are going to transform the personal injury bar in the future — not any action by the government.

“Twenty years from now, personal injury lawyers are going to look back and say ‘remember when you used to make a whole living doing motor vehicle work?’” Rastin says. “Lawyers are flexing into other areas of practice — and not necessarily because they want to, it’s just coming. We’re seeing this whole concept of technological change affecting the legal profession and litigation generally.”

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