Car Recall Remedies and Your Rights
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Garrett Monteagudo, Esq. | Last reviewed December 29, 2022
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You have certain legal rights if your car is recalled. A manufacturer's recall can involve anywhere from dozens of cars to hundreds of thousands. It can affect anything from entire vehicles to replaceable equipment such as floor mats, airbags, and engine parts. Knowing your rights and the car recall remedies available to you can provide you with a head-start.
Recalls and Automobile Safety
Safety is a major issue for car buyers. Advertisements and sales representatives frequently highlight safety features both on television and on the sales floor. Car manufacturers continually work to boost sales by making their cars better, safer, and more desirable for consumers. When defects are discovered, manufacturers will often act on their own initiative to prevent a decline in sales and avoid damage to the company's reputation.
Many other factors help ensure the safety, reliability, and crashworthiness of cars sold in the United States. Government regulators routinely evaluate cars for safety problems. Once cars reach the market, the media widely reports on major safety problems. Consumers injured by a car or equipment defect can sue manufacturers for compensation. Finally, federal and state criminal and civil investigations can lead to expensive fines and settlements. All of these considerations converge to encourage manufacturers to produce safer, more reliable cars.
The Car Recall Process
A recall begins with the discovery of a defect. Sometimes the manufacturer will discover a car defect and issue a recall on its own initiative. More often, consumers will encounter a problem and file a complaint with government regulators, the manufacturer, or a dealership. When a defect is serious enough to raise safety concerns, a recall might prove necessary.
Most of the time, manufacturers will voluntarily recall a defective car. Voluntary recalls are thought to reflect better on companies than complying with government-ordered recalls. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency responsible for car safety investigations, often begins the recall process by requesting that a manufacturer issue a voluntary recall. It can also order manufacturers to recall defective cars and equipment when necessary. You can search the NHTSA's database of recalls and safety notices as well.
All consumers should receive notice of a recall affecting them. Car manufacturers are required to notify registered owners and purchasers of all recalled cars by letter, and state agencies will provide manufacturers with lists of registered owners for this purpose. This notice will contain important details about getting your car or equipment fixed.
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. Realistically, this may mean a wait. Car recalls can span the globe and potentially involve thousands of owners, but you should insist on your right to a recall remedy at no cost. Most recalls are run through local dealerships.
While your recall remedy is free, the choice of remedy belongs to the manufacturer. Car manufacturers can choose from three recall remedies depending on the nature of the defect.
- Repair: The manufacturer will repair the defect free of charge. This commonly occurs for small, easily-fixed defects.
- Replace: The manufacturer will replace your car or equipment free of charge.
- Refund: The manufacturer will refund your purchase (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.
The NHTSA maintains an online booklet of important recall information for consumers. This source is comprehensive and widely cited. If you have more specific questions, you may wish to read it or otherwise contact the NHTSA.
Can I Sue Car Manufacturers like General Motors (GM) For Recalls?
Yes, you can sue major automakers like Ford, GM, Toyota, and others for defective products and recalled vehicles. Your lawsuit, or class action lawsuit, will depend on many circumstances like the ones previously stated in this article. If the product liability led to a car accident or serious injury, then you may also have a personal injury case.
A recall can provide strong proof of a defective vehicle or defective part. The value of the claim, and how much you might receive in compensation from the case, depends on the property damage and personal harm that occurred. If there was no accident before the recall, your case may be harder to seek damages. Keep in mind your state has a statute of limitations, so the car accident or recall needs to happen within that timeframe for you to bring a case.
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 related to a faulty product can recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages from time off work, and other damages. Consumers who have been injured as a result of car-related defects may have a legal claim to damages. Contact a products liability attorney to discuss your legal options today.
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.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.