The term “car defects” refers to any faults in a motor vehicle which are a result of the actions of the vehicle’s manufacturer. For the purposes of defect claims, the term “motor vehicle” can include trucks, vans, buses and motorcycles. Meaning, the term is not limited to passenger cars; however, it does not include boats, or other types of watercraft.
In regards to a lawsuit or a car defects recall, a motor vehicle defect usually refers only to those flaws which create safety hazards. Or, those flaws that may result in the injury of the operator or passengers. Aesthetic flaws such as a botched paint job or a misplaced decal are usually not the subject of a vehicle defects claim.
Some examples of the most commonly claimed motor vehicle defects include:
- Brake and gas pedal defects, such as pedals getting stuck or jammed;
- Safety equipment defects, such as safety belt or airbag failure;
- Fuel, exhaust, and cooling system flaws;
- Misaligned steering mechanisms;
- Structural problems in the frame, body, transmission, or engine assembly; and/or
- Electrical and computer problems, such as defective keyless fobs.
Federal motor vehicle safety standards are responsible for setting the minimum performance requirements for those parts of cars that will most likely affect the operation of a vehicle. This includes but may not be limited to brakes, tires, steering wheel, or lighting. Anything that deals with the protection of the drivers and passengers safety must meet the minimum requirements set by Federal motor safety standards.
A recall of a vehicle becomes necessary when:
- The vehicle or car part does not comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard; and
- There is a safety related defect in the vehicle equipment.
Who Decides to Recall a Defective Vehicle or Part?
The party responsible for the recall of a defective vehicle or part can vary, based on what is being recalled. Recalls are generally initiated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) or by the vehicle manufacturer once they have discovered a defect in the design or manufacturing of part or all of a vehicle.
Any party to the product’s distribution chain may be held liable for product defect. Some examples of who could be held liable, and therefore may issue a recall, include:
- The product’s manufacturer, as previously mentioned;
- The party responsible for assembling or installing the defective product;
- The manufacturer of the component parts; and/or
- The retailer who sold the particular product to the customer.
What Are Some Common Car Defects that Require Recall?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration keeps close records of safety recall issues. In addition the defects already discussed, a few more common defects that may lead to a recall include:
- Air bag deployment defects;
- Vehicle steering parts that break or malfunctions causing a possible loss of control;
- Wiring flaws and fuel leaks that could potentially cause fire;
- Faulty or defective tires;
- Failure of vehicles to meet emissions standards; and/or
- Defects with the car’s onboard electronics systems.
What Happens If My Vehicle is Recalled in Whole or Part?
If your vehicle or part of your vehicle is recalled, the manufacturer is required by federal law to notify all registered owners and purchasers by first class mail. They must do so by using state vehicle registration information in order to locate the owners.
Additionally, the vehicle manufacturer must provide all registered owners and purchasers with a free solution to the problem posed by the recall. This remedy may be in the form of a new vehicle, free installation of new parts, or money as a sort of damages award.
What Types of Remedies are Available if I Have Purchased a Car That Has Been recalled?
Unlike personal injury claims based on a car accident, it is not necessary to show that a manufacturer was negligent or careless. Rather, motor vehicle defect cases are usually based on the legal doctrine of products liability. To prove that the manufacturer was liable for your injuries or losses, you would need to show that:
- The motor vehicle had an “unreasonably dangerous defect” that was the cause of your injury;
- The vehicle was being properly used, in the manner that it was intended to be used; and
- The vehicle had not been substantially altered from the condition in which it was originally sold. “Substantially altered” refers to the specific way that the vehicle is supposed to perform
Even if a manufacturer did not intend for your injuries to occur, or if they were not reckless in their actions, you may still recover if the above elements are met. An “unreasonably dangerous defect” may be due to:
- The vehicle’s design;
- A defect in the manufacturing process, such as the design is acceptable but the vehicle was manufactured incorrectly; and/or
- A failure to provide adequate warning of any dangerous aspects of the vehicle, such as a failure to place a warning label where required.
If you have purchased a car that has recently been recalled, you may be entitled to several types of legal remedies. Some examples include but may not be limited to:
- Economic Damages: You may be able to recover the lost value of the car’s resale value. You may also be able to recover for loss of use of the car;
- Personal Injury Recovery: If the defective automobile resulted in physical injuries to you, you may be able to recover for the costs associated with the injury;
- Class Action: If the recall has affected enough numbers of consumers, a class action lawsuit might be an available option; and
- Manufacturer Reimbursement: Inquire as to whether you may be compensated for repairs, or for a replacement vehicle.
It is important to note that the specific laws covering products liability will vary somewhat from state to state. Additionally, each individual automobile manufacturer may have different policies, which would be stated in their warranty provisions. As such, you may wish to contact a car recall lawyer in order to determine what your options for recovery are.
If a defective condition was discovered in your car upon purchase, you should notify the manufacturer or a government agency as soon as possible. If a recall has not yet been issued, the information you provide may help initiate the recall process.
Are There Time Limitations for Recall Remedies?
Depending on each state, there may be time limitations on remedies available under a recall. This would be referred to as a statute of limitations. If the vehicle now being recalled is more than eight years old, the owner may need to make the repairs themselves
Additionally, the manufacturer and/or seller may have a defense against your claim if you did not take action before the statute of limitations ran out. Another defense may be that you knew about the defective condition, but continued to operate the vehicle. Some states also prohibit or limit your recovery if you had contributed in any way to your injury (comparative or contributory negligence).
Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding an Automobile Recall Dispute?
If you are involved in any situation involving a recalled vehicle, you should immediately contact a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
An experienced personal injury attorney can determine what your legal rights are, notify you if there are any class action lawsuits available for you to join, and will represent you in court as needed. A vehicle recall attorney will be better aware of any statutes of limitation in place, as well as your state’s specific laws regarding the matter.