Written by attorney David McCormack

Automobile Safety Recalls – What should you do when your vehicle is subject to a recall?

We’ve all been watching the news or reading a newspaper when we hear or see a quick blurb mentioning that an automobile manufacturer has issued a recall of its vehicles due to a design or manufacturing defect. Usually this information goes in one ear and out the other. But what happens when your car is being recalled?

An automobile recall may be issued in a variety of ways. On rare occasions, an automobile manufacturer discovers a problem or defect and takes the initiative to issue a recall for the safety of consumers. More often than not, however, an automobile manufacturer will only issue a recall when forced to by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Both by phone and through NHTSA’s website, owners of cars can file reports/complaints with NHTSA regarding suspected defects in their vehicles, whether or not the suspected defect actually led to an accident. Local police officers who investigate accidents also report suspected defects to NHTSA if the officers find evidence that a potential defect played a role in causing an accident. If NHTSA receives enough such complaints and reports, it will launch an investigation to try and determine whether the reports are related to or caused by a problem with the design or manufacture of a vehicle. If it determines that there is a defect that needs to be addressed, NHTSA will either force the automobile manufacturer to issue a “voluntary" recall or NHTSA itself will issue a recall. Recalls that NHTSA initiates generally involve defects that affect the safety of consumers and the general public, such as the failure of airbags to deploy, breaks in a car’s steering column, and unintended acceleration in vehicles.

Once a recall is issued, the automobile manufacturer is required to alert all known owners of the recalled vehicle by mail and invite the owners to bring their vehicles to a local dealership so that the defect can be repaired. Problems sometimes arise in the methods automobile manufacturers use to locate the true owners of the recalled vehicles. Secondary purchasers may never receive notice of the recall unless the auto manufacturer is diligent in tracking down all known owners of the recalled vehicles.

If you have problems with your vehicle that you believe are related to a defect that can compromise the safety of your vehicle, you should immediately report it to NHTSA and the automobile manufacturer. If your vehicle is subject to a recall, you should immediately take your vehicle in to a specified dealership to have the defect repaired. If you learn about a recall affecting your vehicle, but do not receive notice from the manufacturer, you should contact NHTSA, the automobile manufacturer, or your local dealership to find out how you can get your vehicle fixed. The automobile manufacturer is almost always responsible for the cost involved in the repair. Should the defect be significant and extensive, automobile manufacturers may even refund the purchase price of the vehicle, minus depreciation.

If you or a family member have been involved in an accident in a vehicle subject to a safety recall, the attorneys at SUGARMAN have a long history of pursuing and litigating product liability suits. If you have questions regarding a potential automotive personal injury case or recall, please fill out a contact form, call (617) 542-1000, or e-mail [email protected] to set up a consultation.

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