Anyone who receives a notice about a vehicle recall should take quick action, not only for their own safety, but also for their own protection in a lawsuit involving the recalled vehicle. A recall could affect liability in a car accident case if the driver ignored it.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal agency that provides information about vehicle recalls. According to the NHTSA, in 2019, 966 recalls were issued, affecting more than 53 million vehicle owners. These recalls involved vehicle defects and compliance issues, child restraint problems, and faulty tires.
The NHTSA’s website allows a driver to enter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), or the year, make, and model, to see if there has been a recall on their car. Car manufacturers and dealers are also required by law, in most states, to send notices to car owners. A driver should never ignore a recall notice. Recall issues are not minor, and they can cause harm, or even death, if they are left unresolved.
What is a Safety Recall?
Safety recalls were established in 1966 by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. A safety recall is issued when a manufacturer violates a federal motor vehicle safety standard, or an auto defect poses an unreasonable safety risk. An entire vehicle or just a certain part or piece of equipment can be considered defective, such as floor mats that interfere with braking.
Not all recalls are safety-related, but most involve hazards. Automakers can issue recalls voluntarily, or the NHTSA can impose a recall by court order. Investigations into safety and compliance issues often originate from consumer complaints filed with the NHTSA. Each recall notice must contain:
- A description of the defect.
- An explanation of the risks associated with the defect and important warning symptoms.
- A description of the remedy and instructions on how and when to have the remedy performed.
Common auto defects include:
- Seat belts that break or fail.
- Defects in a car’s electrical system that can lead to stalls or even fires.
- Brake and power steering failures.
- Faulty brake pedals or other problems inside the cabin that make it difficult to control the vehicle.
What Remedies are Available?
The type of remedy in a recall is up to the manufacturer. Some possible solutions include:
- Repair: This is a common remedy for small, easily fixed defects.
- Replace: For more major defects, the manufacturer will replace the car or faulty equipment.
- Refund: The manufacturer will refund the purchase price for a total-car recall.
Almost all repairs are free, with a few exceptions. A car that is at least 15 years of age is not required to be fixed for free. For tires, five years is the timeframe. Safety recalls are effective for the life of the vehicle or equipment, such as a car seat. One exception is for tires when repairs must be completed within 180 days of notification.
How can a Recall Affect a Car Accident Lawsuit?
A recall can affect a car owner’s liability in an accident and can even implicate other parties in the lawsuit, including the carmaker or the seller or dealer. When an owner receives a notice of a vehicle recall, they are instructed on how to get the issues repaired. If they do not take reasonable action, their liability, in most cases, will increase. The reason for this is that knowingly failing to fix a problem puts passengers, drivers, and pedestrians at risk.
Can a Vehicle or Parts Manufacturer be Sued if a Recalled Car is in an Accident?
Every case is different, but many types of recalls involve defects that could increase a car maker’s liability. An example of this is the well-publicized Takata airbag defect recall that involved more than 10 million vehicles. It was discovered that long-term exposure to heat and humidity could cause these airbags to explode when deployed, or they would not fully inflate when deployed, causing injuries and fatalities. A vehicle maker could also be held liable for injuries or deaths that occurred before the fix was completed. An injured victim should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident was caused by an auto defect. A lawyer will be able to provide more information about liability and compensation.
How can a Recall Impact My Personal Injury Claim?
A recall does not automatically make a party liable for the accident. However, it does mean the responsible party has admitted there is a defect or other compliance or safety issue with the car. If they fail to act on their duties to notify vehicle owners of known issues, they can be held liable. There must also be proof that the recall issue specifically caused the injury or damages in an accident. Conversely, a driver who was notified of a recall, but did not act on getting the problem fixed, could also bear liability in a car accident.
Manufacturers are not the only ones who can be held liable for injuries in car accidents. There could be claims against retailers, distributors, dealerships, and others that failed to protect drivers and passengers from harm. Identifying who is liable for injuries or deaths in accidents involving recalled cars can be complicated. Resources, including experts with the right technical, medical, and engineering knowledge, need to be consulted for this type of claim. One should speak to a knowledgeable lawyer for information about how a vehicle recall can affect a personal injury claim.
How can a Lawyer Help with My Car Accident Claim?
A lawyer can help a victim build a strong case by performing the following after a car accident:
Connect the car accident to the recall. A claim must prove that the accident was specifically caused by the exact issue defined in the recall.
Gather evidence for a claim. A lawyer can collect pictures and physical evidence, witness statements, expert testimonies, and other information to build a case.
Determine who is liable for the collision. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine who is at-fault, such as the vehicle maker, parts manufacturer, dealer, driver, or another party. An experienced lawyer can make this determination.
Prepare the case. An experienced lawyer knows how a car manufacturer or related party will defend themselves if a claim ends up going to court. They can build a case and know how to counter the defense’s claims.
Negotiate a settlement. Insurance companies, vehicle makers, equipment manufacturers, and other parties involved in the case will want to settle for as little as possible. An experienced negotiator is needed to ensure that the victim receives all entitled compensation.
Bucks County Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Victims Injured by Recalled Cars
A claim regarding a vehicle recall is complex. Our experienced Bucks County accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. can guide you on recovering compensation for damages or injuries. Contact us online or call us at 888-999-1962 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.