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Car Safety Recall Types and Processes

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or an auto manufacturer learns that there's a safety issue with one of their vehicles, they issue a recall. Consumers can go online and check to see if there have been any recalls for their cars or SUVs.

NHTSA publishes safety standards for vehicles sold in the U.S. You can search by vehicle identification number (VIN). This article will explain:

  • How the auto recall process works in the United States
  • What to do if you injure yourself as a result of a safety issue with your automobile, truck, motorcycle, or SUV

NHTSA sets safety standards that auto manufacturers must abide by. Automakers usually adhere to these standards, but sometimes, a vehicle falls short. When this happens, NHTSA or the car manufacturer may issue a car recall.

The NHSTA Recall Process

NHTSA recalls follow a specific process. First, car owners file complaints about perceived vehicle safety defects with NHTSA. NHTSA then reviews and catalogs each complaint to track which vehicles have the most significant safety issues.

There is no magic number of complaints that trigger an investigation. However, if a particular make and model receives more severe complaints, NHTSA will conduct an investigation.

During its investigation, NHTSA closely reviews each complaint and the designs of the vehicles in question. NHTSA engineers may conduct tests if necessary. If these tests reveal a problem in a car's design that impacts vehicle safety, NHTSA will issue a recall.

There will be no recall if the defect merely impacts the driver's comfort. For example, radio or air conditioning defects rarely cause recalls, whereas problems with steering or acceleration may pose a safety hazard.

Common Safety Recalls

Certain automobile parts are more likely to pose a safety risk. For example, if your car's braking system is faulty, it can cause an accident. The same is true if your vehicle's airbags do not deploy properly. If you are in a car crash, the airbags should help prevent injury. If they don't work correctly, they aren't going to protect you.

Some of the more common safety-related defects in American automobiles include the following:

  • Seatbelts
  • Airbags
  • Car seats
  • Emissions
  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Gasoline tanks
  • Rear headlights and taillights

You must take your car in for recall repairs if you receive a recall alert. If you choose not to do this, it will be challenging to hold the manufacturer liable for damages later.

Which Automakers Have the Most Vehicle Safety Recalls?

Over the years, all major automobile manufacturers have had their share of safety recalls. It doesn't matter whether you purchase a new or used car. Recall notifications are fairly common. You are bound to have received a recall notice at some point.

Some of the major vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. include the following:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors Company
  • Toyota Motor Corporation
  • FCA US, LLC (formerly Chrysler Corporation)

If your vehicle has a safety defect, there's a chance you'll have a product liability claim. It depends on whether you suffer an injury due to that defect.

How Recalls Work

If a manufacturer issues a car recall, it may notify car owners. However, typically, they only inform auto dealerships. These recalls act as secret warranties. If NHTSA issues the recall, manufacturers are legally obligated to notify car owners through the mail using state vehicle registration records.

Each recall notice must contain the following:

  • A description of the defect
  • An explanation of the risks posed by the defect, as well as any critical warning symptoms
  • A description of the remedy, along with instructions on how and when to have the remedy performed

In the case of car recalls, the remedy is the repair or replacement of the defective part. This is at no cost to the vehicle owner. A local dealership typically performs the replacement and repair of the vehicle.

Even if you do not receive a recall notice, you are still entitled to a remedy if the manufacturer or NHTSA issues a recall on your vehicle. Be sure to check NHTSA's website to find out whether there is a recall on your car.

When a Product Defect Causes Injuries: How To Get Legal Help

If NHTSA or a manufacturer recalls your car or truck, the dealer or manufacturer should fix the problem free of charge or offer a refund. You may be entitled to compensation if you suffer an injury due to your defective automobile.

To determine if you have a valid claim worth pursuing, contact an experienced lawyer for a consultation.

Additional Recall Sources from the U.S. Government

If you're interested in additional resources regarding auto recall information in the United States, consult the following websites:

  • VIN Search: From the Office of Defects Investigation. Search by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to determine if the automaker fixed the issues with your automobile.
  • Defects Investigation Database: From the Office of Defects Investigation. Search for defects investigations involving vehicles, equipment, child safety seats, and tires.
  • Safety Technology: From NHTSA. Information about the latest automobile safety technologies, such as land departure warning.
  • NHTSA's Car Safety Ratings: Search for safety information about automobiles by name.
  • Parents Central: Information and resources for parents from NHTSA to help you keep your children safe while traveling by automobile
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