The Recall Process
In the last five years alone, 30 to 50 million cars have been recalled by manufacturers, or by the NHTSA every year.
Recalls are issued when an auto manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a certain part of a vehicle poses an unreasonable safety risk and does not meet minimum safety standards.
Once a recall is issued, manufacturers are required by law to provide a remedy for the issue.
Remedies for an automotive recall include:
- Repairing the issue (Most Common).
- Replacing a defective part.
- Offering a refund.
- Repurchasing the vehicle (Rare Cases).
The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety [Title 49, Chapter 301] defines motor vehicle safety as follows:
“The performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”
Automotive recalls can potentially involve thousands or hundreds of thousands of automobiles. The defect can affect anything from a small replaceable part to the entire vehicle.
How To Find Out About A Recall
There are a few different ways you can find out about an automotive recall.
- If you purchased your vehicle new: the manufacturer should have your contact info on file and are mandated by law to notify you of the defect within 60 days and offer remedies (make sure your mailing address is always updated).
- If you did not receive a notice in the mail and heard about the recall from the news: contact your local dealer immediately and provide your car’s VIN number to be verified and issued a repair.
- You can sign up to receive email or mobile app notifications of recalls affecting you straight from the NHTSA by following this link.
Even if you’ve never received any notice personally, you still would be eligible for a repair.
How Long Are Car Recalls Valid?
While recalls don’t technically expire, manufacturers are only obligated to provide a free remedy to vehicles not more than 15 years old.
As per the NHTSA, “In order to be eligible for a free remedy, the vehicle cannot be more than 15 years old on the date the defect or noncompliance is determined.” Under this law, the age of the vehicle is counted from the date of the original sale of the vehicle when brand new.
If you found a recall on a vehicle older than 15 years, please take the responsibility to repair your car as soon as possible. This will keep you safe and eliminate any unnecessary safety risks.
Car Recall Remedies
Because car recalls are common, could span the whole globe, and involve hundreds of thousands of customers; getting a free fix for your vehicle could take some time as your local dealer caters to all their affected customers.
There are three main recall remedies manufacturers go with depending on the nature of the defect:
- Repair: The car manufacturer will repair the defect free of charge. (Applies to small fixes)
- Replacement: The car manufacturer will replace your defective equipment free of charge.
- Refund: The car manufacturer will refund your purchase. (This only applies to car recalls, manufacturers are only required to fix/replace defective equipment.
Car Recalls And Lawsuits
While car recalls require automotive manufacturers to issue free remedies to their customers, those remedies do not cover any damages or injuries that a person may have sustained as a result of a faulty/defective part.
Federal laws give victims of manufacturer defects the right to file product liability claims against manufacturers. Consumers who have been injured because of an auto-related defect have a legal claim to damages and can recover compensation for lost wages, medical bills, among other damages.
The good news is that federal laws are there to protect consumers in tough situations like these.
If you’ve been affected by a car recall, contact an expert Product Liability Attorney to seek help and discuss your legal options before you move forward.