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Car Recall Remedies and Your Rights


You have certain legal rights if the manufacturer or government agency recalls your car or SUV. Knowing your rights and the available car recall remedies gives you a head-start on your potential product liability claim. It also helps ensure your family is safe while traveling in your vehicle.

This article will discuss how safety recalls occur. It will also touch on some of the more common types of safety recalls. Finally, it will explain your rights as the owner of the defective vehicle.

Recalls and Automobile Safety

Safety is one of the most important things buyers consider when shopping for a new car, truck, or SUV. Advertisers and sales representatives frequently highlight safety features on television and the sales floor.

Car manufacturers continually work to boost sales by designing safer vehicles for consumers. When the automaker or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovers a vehicle defect, it issues a recall notice.

Sometimes, an automaker initiates recalls voluntarily. For example, if it learns that the airbags in a particular make and model don't deploy properly, it may start the recall.

Other times, the automakers wait until NHTSA orders them to issue a vehicle recall. It depends on the likelihood of vehicle owners suing the manufacturer for injuries resulting from violating safety standards. The manufacturer's goal is to keep sales high and protect their reputation.

Factors Ensuring the Safety, Reliability, and Crashworthiness of Cars and SUVs

Auto manufacturers and NHTSA aren't the only agencies working to ensure vehicle safety. Government regulators also routinely evaluate cars for safety problems. When motor vehicles fail to meet safety standards, regulators can order automakers to correct the issues. Regulators also have the authority to levy fines on car manufacturers who fail to fix safety concerns.

Once cars reach the market, the media widely reports on safety problems. For example, the media covers the crash if someone dies in an accident due to a vehicle manufacturer's safety defects. The media educates the public and often commands an outpouring of concern for the victim's friends and family.

Car owners who suffer an injury from a motor vehicle safety issue can also sue the manufacturer for compensation. All of these considerations converge to encourage manufacturers to produce safe and reliable cars.

The Car Recall Process

A recall begins with the discovery of a defect. Sometimes, the manufacturer discovers a car defect and issues a voluntary recall. Consumers can also file complaints with government regulators, manufacturers, or dealerships.

Most of the time, manufacturers voluntarily recall a defective car. Voluntary recalls reflect better on car companies. It can also help the manufacturer avoid liability down the road. If the manufacturer covers recall repairs, it can cast the manufacturer in a better light.

NHTSA, the federal agency responsible for car safety investigations, can also initiate the recall process. NHTSA can request that a manufacturer issue a voluntary recall. NHTSA can also order manufacturers to recall defective cars and equipment when necessary. You can also search NHTSA's recalls and safety notices database by your vehicle identification number.

Once the NHTSA issues a recall, car manufacturers must notify registered owners and purchasers of all recalled cars by letter. State agencies provide manufacturers with lists of registered owners for this purpose. This notice contains important details about getting your vehicle or equipment fixed. It also provides owners with contact information for questions or concerns.

Your Car Recall Remedies: Repair, Replace, Refund

Federal law requires manufacturers to provide consumers with a recall remedy free of charge and within a reasonable amount of time. Car recalls can span the globe and potentially involve thousands of owners. Repairing your vehicle may take a while. Local dealerships can also take time to obtain the necessary replacement parts.

While your recall remedy is free, the choice of remedy belongs to the manufacturer. Car manufacturers can choose from three recall remedies. The recall remedy depends on the nature of the defect.

These remedies include the following:

  • Repair: The manufacturer will repair the defect free of charge. This commonly occurs for minor, easily-fixed flaws. You may be eligible for a free rental car while the mechanic fixes your car or SUV.
  • Replace: The manufacturer will replace your car or equipment free of charge. The company must reimburse your out-of-pocket expenses if you pay for the repairs.
  • Refund: The manufacturer will refund your purchase price, minus a certain amount for depreciation. Refunds are only available for car recalls. Manufacturers of car equipment are only required to repair or replace defective equipment.

NHTSA maintains an online booklet of important recall information for consumers. This source is comprehensive and widely cited. Please read it or contact NHTSA if you have more specific questions.

What if There Is No Remedy Available?

It is rare to have an open recall with no remedy available. Federal law requires auto manufacturers to repair or replace defective vehicles and their parts for cars up to 15 years old. This is true for new and used vehicles.

If there is a safety defect that the dealership cannot repair, you may receive a refund for the fair market value of your vehicle. However, in most cases, the manufacturer finds a way to remedy the safety risks.

Can I Sue Car Manufacturers for Recalls?

You can sue automakers like Ford, GM, and Toyota for defective products and recalled vehicles. You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit if the product liability issue led to a car accident and injury.

In your initial complaint, your personal injury attorney must list your damages. These damages may include compensation or reimbursement for the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical care
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

If your loved one dies due to a defective part or safety issue, you may have a claim for wrongful death. The best thing to do is talk to an experienced product liability attorney to determine your options.

Car Recalls and Lawsuits

Even if you take advantage of every recall option available, you may still file a civil lawsuit for damages. For instance, the recall of faulty brake pads will provide options for repair, replacement, or refund, but those remedies don't cover any injuries you may have sustained from an accident resulting from the faulty part.

Seeking Car Recall Remedies? Talk to a Lawyer Today

Injury lawsuits can help you recover compensation for your injuries. Consumers hurt in a car accident due to a vehicle safety issue may have a legal claim for damages.

Contact a products liability attorney to discuss your legal options today.

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