Defective Vehicles & Safety Recalls

Vehicle recalls have made headlines lately, with the widespread and unfortunate safety problems occurring in Toyota Jeeps. A recall is issued when a hazardous defect is discovered that potentially affects a line of vehicles—a certain make and model that was manufactured in a given year or range of years.

Recalled vehicles can pose a danger to consumers if the defective vehicles are not repaired or replaced. There may also be other issues related to this area, such as manufacturers who don’t honor the terms of a recall, or a vehicle defect for which a recall has not been issued.

How the vehicle recall process works

Typically, a safety defect in a vehicle is discovered either by the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Possible defects are often investigated following complaints from vehicle owners.

There are federal laws in place that define and govern safety recalls. According to the law, safety defects are those which both pose a risk to safety in vehicles, and that exist in a group of vehicles with the same manufacturer or design.

Consumer rights dictate that a manufacturer must notify vehicle owners when a defect is discovered, and offer the opportunity to remedy the problem at no charge to the owner.

The steps that take place when a safety defect is discovered in a car, motorcycle, or other vehicle include:

  • The manufacturer or NHTSA issues a public report about the safety recall that identifies the recalled vehicle, describes the defect and the available remedy for vehicle owners, and lays out a recall schedule
  • Manufacturers take steps to locate the owners of recalled vehicles as defined by federal law
  • Owners are provided with a notification letter that contains the information released in the public report, as well as information on how vehicle owners can receive the remedy, and what to do if the problem is not corrected by the manufacturer

If the manufacturer doesn’t comply

Federal law mandates that remedies for recalled vehicles must be effective, and free of charge for vehicles less than 10 years old. For older vehicles, the remedy must still be effective and available, but manufacturers are not required to pay for repairs or replacement—though most will cover repair costs for older defective vehicles.

If the manufacturer fails to correct problems with a recalled vehicle, or insists on charging you when the vehicle is less than 10 years old:

  • Contact the dealer service department, and then the department manager if the service manager won’t comply with the recall.
  • If that fails, contact the vehicle manufacturer and inform them of the steps you’ve already taken.
  • Should the manufacturer refuse to comply, contact the NHTSA via mail, phone, or their website

Safety defects that haven’t been recalled

If you have a vehicle with a safety defect that is not under recall, you should first find out if your warranty is still in effect, and whether it will cover the issue. For safety issues not  covered by warranty or non-safety-related defects, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit to recover any damages, including the cost of repairs.

The Miami trial lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have successfully represented many clients in vehicle product liability lawsuits. Contact us today to discuss the details of your defective vehicle case.

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