Bill Targets Insurers Reselling Totaled Cars after Katrina

Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi says he is "steamed" at some US insurance companies for putting automobiles that were totaled in Hurricane Katrina back on the market, even though they are not fit for the road.

Lott has introduced a bill that would require insurance companies to make total loss information commercially available to the public via a means determined by the US Department of Transportation. Under the legislation, when an insurance company declares a vehicle "totaled" and assumes a title, it would have to make that information available to consumers.

An estimated 500,000 vehicles were damaged by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, the senator points out. That number includes his own car in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The conservative lawmaker says American consumers should know what happens to automobiles once an insurance company has declared a vehicle a total loss.

"It's one of many instances where I feel like some bad conduct has been involved," Lott observes. "If people acquire these automobiles without knowing their true history, that is at least a fraud, maybe worse," he says, "and is an area where we need to act."

Many people may feel, since Hurricane Katrina is long over, that recovery from its effects have long been accomplished; however, this is simply not so. "We've got a long way to go," he says, "and there will be other issues [relating to the hurricane and its aftermath] that we need to address with federal participation, federal funds."

However, Lott emphasizes, the issue of totaled automobiles being put back on the market without full disclosure of their histories is an area that should be addressed regardless of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, he says, it should be addressed whenever there is a natural disaster, whether it be a hurricane affecting the Gulf states, a flood in West Virginia, a tornado in Oklahoma, or any other such event.

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  • Guest

    Cars that are totaled and salvaged for any reason should be documented every time they are subsequently sold. I bought a used car that had been salvaged and the radiator, which had been bolted (instead of welded) back in, began to sag. When we traced it back, we found it had been salvaged. I (and my children) could have been seriously injured or killed if it had given way at highway speeds. I have always had cars inspected by a mechanic (before purchase) after that incident.