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Vehicle Recalls and Defects

Most people will never have to deal with a vehicle recall, but if you do, you're not alone. When you learn that there's a defect with your car or SUV, you will likely become frustrated or angry. The last thing you want to hear after spending thousands of dollars on a new car is that there's something wrong with it.

Vehicle recalls are a necessary part of life, though. No process is perfect. A recall is the best way for auto manufacturers to let you know your car isn't safe. Even minor defects can cause a car accident.

This section provides an overview of vehicle defects, the recall process, and information on your legal rights if you have a defective vehicle. It will also explain how a product liability attorney can help if you get hurt due to a vehicle defect.

What Is a Motor Vehicle Defect?

There are hundreds of defective products on the market at any given time. Sometimes, these products appeared safe when first released but proved faulty years later. Sometimes, a product's design is unsafe, and the manufacturer releases it to the market anyway.

When it comes to motor vehicle defects, the defects typically appear in the first few years after the car hits the market. Many of these defects are minor. For example, the brake lights on your car or SUV may burn out too quickly due to an electrical issue. Other times, the defect is much more severe.

Some of the more common auto defects and defective auto parts include:

  • Defective airbags
  • Seatbelts
  • Defective Tires
  • Wheels
  • Braking system
  • Engine and transmission issues
  • Door latch problems
  • Fuel system
  • Broken car parts
  • Rollover risk
  • Steering

Once the automaker learns of a defect, it must investigate whether it jeopardizes the car or truck's safety. If so, it must issue a recall and notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA offers a portal where you can check for any defects in your vehicle.

Types of Motor Vehicle Recalls

Car manufacturers issue three types of recall notices. Safety issues almost always trigger a vehicle manufacturer's recall. However, some recalls, such as Technical Service Bulletins, do not involve a threat to safety. A manufacturer issues a TSB to warn mechanics and auto dealerships of an increased number of vehicle owners needing repairs.

The three types of auto recalls include the following:

  • Technical service bulletins: Automakers like Ford or Toyota send technical service bulletins to dealerships and mechanic shops. It does not send these directly to consumers. These bulletins alert mechanics and dealers of an anticipated increase in vehicle repairs. A TSB does not involve serious safety issues or threats to passenger safety. Sometimes, TSB repairs are free. However, you may have to pay out-of-pocket if your warranty is no longer in effect.
  • Voluntary recall: Most recalls are voluntary. When car manufacturers discover problems with a vehicle part or component, the manufacturers must identify if it threatens driver and passenger safety. The manufacturer may issue a recall if it offers a potential threat. It does this to avoid liability later. Voluntary recalls never expire. This is the case regardless of your vehicle's age or how many miles it has on it.
  • Mandatory recalls: These recalls don't happen all that often. NHTSA may demand that an automaker issue a recall when it learns that a vehicle defect poses a substantial risk to drivers and public safety. Mandatory recalls require full disclosure by the manufacturer, parts manufacturer, or other third party. Repairs are free, and the recall can remain in effect for years.

If you receive a recall notice and aren't sure what to do, contact an attorney. They can help you file a claim against the auto manufacturer and ensure your vehicle gets fixed under the most favorable terms available in your situation.

Safety Research and Crash Testing

Auto manufacturers conduct their own safety research and crash testing. Manufacturers do this before a new model reaches the market. Manufacturers also conduct ongoing research to ensure their vehicles are safe. In addition, the Office of Vehicle Safety Research conducts its testing to determine if cars, trucks, and SUVs present safety issues.

The Office of Vehicle Safety Research publishes its findings through NHTSA. The agency's crash tests support NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation's safety goals and standards. You can find the results of this testing on the NHTSA website.

When Is an Auto Recall Necessary?

Federal motor vehicle safety standards set minimum performance requirements for vehicles and auto parts. The standards focus on issues affecting the vehicles' safe operation. These standards also address aspects of the car that protect drivers and passengers from death or severe injury in the event of a crash.

These standards apply to all vehicles and equipment manufactured or imported for sale in the United States. NHTSA orders a recall when a motor vehicle or equipment violates safety standards.

The Recall Process and Your Rights

Once a vehicle manufacturer or NHTSA identifies a defect, the automaker has three options. They can repair or replace the vehicle with an identical or similar vehicle. The manufacturer may also choose to refund the purchase price minus a reasonable allowance for depreciation. In the case of defective equipment, the manufacturer can either repair or replace them.

Vehicle owners have rights when it comes to a safety recall or alert. First, go online and check for recalls. If the automaker discovers a manufacturing or design defect, it may recall the car or SUV.

You'll be able to bring your vehicle to the dealership and get the defective parts repaired or replaced free of charge.

If your car, truck, motorcycle, or SUV was defective when you bought it, you may want to file a product liability claim. Of course, you would only do this if the defect led to an accident and injuries. You don't need to show that the manufacturer acted carelessly or made a mistake when producing the car.

Your Injury Lawyer Will Demand Damages in Your Product Liability Case

Suing the manufacturer to recover damages is the primary reason for initiating a lawsuit. If you were in a crash due to a vehicle defect and suffered injuries, your attorney will demand compensation.

In most product liability lawsuits, plaintiffs demand the following types of damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Wrongful death if the victim passes away
  • Punitive damages

When car owners sue manufacturers for a defective car, they may demand punitive damages. The judge orders these damages to punish the defendant. You will not receive punitive damages unless your attorney can show the defendant acted recklessly or knowingly.

How Can a Product Liability Attorney Help?

You should call an experienced consumer protection attorney or product liability attorney and schedule your free case evaluation. Most law firms offer new clients a free consultation for product liability claims.

Once your attorney reviews your claim, they'll let you know how to proceed. If your loved one died as a result of an auto defect, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney will discuss this option if it's available.

Click the links below for more information about vehicle recalls and defects, associated laws, and related legal issues.

Learn About Vehicle Recalls and Defects

Vehicle Defect and Recall Basics

  • A look at the Federal Motor Vehicle's Safety Standards and the vehicle recall process. Learn about safety-related defects, what makes a vehicle recall necessary, and your remedies as a consumer.

Your Vehicle Recall Rights

  • You have certain rights as a consumer when the manufacturer or NHTSA recalls your vehicle. Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the defect, you may have the right to repairs, monetary damages, or other remedies.

Defects Search: Vehicles and Equipment

  • A vehicle recall isn't much help if you're unaware of it. This section contains several resources to help you search for defects that may apply to your vehicle, tires, car seat, or other equipment.

Your Right to Recall Remedies

  • An overview of your rights as the owner of a recalled vehicle. Learn how to find out about recalls, what kinds of remedies are available, and how to obtain remedies.

Vehicle Recalls and Defects Articles

Learn About Vehicle Recalls and Defects

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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