Vehicle safety recalls have found their ways into news headlines in recent months and years. From Toyota’s recalls over accidental acceleration to the recent massive recalls initiated by General Motors, chances are many individuals have either known someone whose vehicle has been the subject of a recall or have driven one themselves (regardless of whether you or the other person experienced any actual trouble with the car).
When a car or vehicle manufacturer becomes aware of a defect in a certain product line (such as all cars of a specific make and model year), a manufacturer will send notice of the recall, offering notification of the defect and an opportunity to have the defect fixed. What should you do if you receive a recall notification?
How Are Recall Notifications Made?
First, one may wonder how a manufacturer decides to send out a recall notice. The process begins when either the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration becomes aware of a defect in a particular car or vehicle. If the defect poses a safety risk in motor vehicles and exists in a group of cars or vehicles from the same design or manufacturer (such as all 2012 Chevrolet Malibu sedans), a recall will be issued by the manufacturer.
The customer typically becomes aware of the recall as a result of a notification mailed to their house. The manufacturer must take several steps to attempt to notify the affected individuals. The notice that is sent must identify the type of vehicle that is subject to the recall, a description of the defect, how the determination to recall the vehicle was made, what danger the vehicle presents because of the defect, and what vehicle owners can do about the recall.
Recall notifications are also made publicly, and individuals can check websites such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website (www.nhtsa.gov) for recall information.
Despite Recall Notifications, Many Cars Remain Unfixed
Once a recall notification is made, in most cases the manufacturer will repair or replace the defective vehicle or part for free. All you need to do is bring your car to your local dealership. Heeding these recall notices is important for protecting yourself and your family from injuries. Your decision to fix a defect in your car can also impact your ability to recover damages in a lawsuit if your or a loved one is injured on account of the defect:
- If you had no knowledge of the defect, either because no recall was issued or because you were not properly notified, you may be able to recover your medical expenses and other losses.
- If you knew of the defect but did not fix your car, you likely will bear some responsibility if you are thereafter injured on account of the defect. This may result in your recovery award being reduced to account for your own negligence.
- If you knew of the defect and had the car fixed, an investigation into the exact cause of the crash may reveal that a repair was performed improperly, or that the manufacturer told dealerships to perform a repair that did not adequately address the defect. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries.