Written on Apr 4, 2022 3:50:28 PM
What to Do if a Vehicle Defect Recall Causes an Accident in Florida
Topics: florida law, Vehicle Recalls
You hear about recalls all the time, whether it is a toy, a product, or a food item. They happen for the good of the public and for the safety of consumers. But what happens when your car has a recall? And, what happens if recall repair fails and causes an accident? Are there defective car accident attorneys? These are all good questions, which we’ll get to the bottom of now.
What is a Vehicle Recall?
Every vehicle has minimum performance and safety requirements as set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). These federal motor vehicle safety standards establish guidelines for airbags, brakes, seat belts, and much more. If requirements are not met, meaning a vehicle or component is deemed unsafe and could result in injuries to drivers, passengers, or others on the road, a recall for individual parts or the entire vehicle will be issued.
Examples of Car Defects
When it comes to defects, there are two categories: safety-related and non-safety-related. Vehicle defects that relate to safety include issues with steering components, fuel system components, accelerator controls, defective tires, cracking cooling fan blades, assembly of windshield wipers, seats that fail unexpectedly during non-extreme use, wiring, airbags, and child safety seats.
There are some car defects that are not considered to be related to safety. This includes components of air conditioners, radios, ordinary wear and tear, nonstructural aspects, rust, paint or cosmetic aspects, and extensive oil use.
The Role of Manufacturers, Dealerships, and the NHTSA During a Vehicle Recall
When a vehicle or its parts are recalled, owners will receive an automobile recall notice with information about the recall, the remedy, and when and how to get the car or equipment fixed. In more severe cases, the entire car will need to be returned because it is considered so unsafe. The original vehicle manufacturers are required to repair, replace, or refund the vehicle or equipment at no cost and in a reasonable amount of time. It’s also important to note that if a recall is intended to repair your car or replace a piece of equipment, that is your only option. According to federal law, you don't have the right to insist on a full refund instead.
Most vehicle manufacturers will handle recalls through the service departments at their dealerships, as they are best equipped to repair or replace their own vehicles (most recall letters will also direct owners to their local dealership). Of course, getting your car fixed can take time. A recall on a popular vehicle can slam a service department’s schedule; now, not only do they have their regular repair work, they’ve got potentially hundreds of people trying to schedule a recall remedy for free. In a business designed to make a profit, that’s a tough pill to swallow!
If you’re having a hard time getting attention from the service department, speak with a service manager. Customer satisfaction is important to car dealerships, so most will be willing to work with you to keep their reputation intact (and avoid those dreaded negative online reviews, which can be business killers).
If a dealership continues to unnecessarily drag their heels, especially if the recall is a serious one, you may want to contact the manufacturer, as they are ultimately the responsible party. Your recall letter should include a toll-free number for assistance. If not, manufacturer contact information can be found online, within the vehicle’s owner manual, or from the dealership.
If the manufacturer isn’t helpful and the matter needs to be taken further up the ladder, contact the NHTSA and file a complaint. As a federal agency responsible for car safety, the NHTSA monitors recalls and works closely with manufacturers to ensure safety issues are addressed.
How to Handle Recall Notices When Purchasing From a Used Car Dealership
Not everyone purchases their vehicle from a certified dealership, which raises other issues altogether. Estimates suggest that about 25% of all recalled vehicles never receive necessary repairs. While private sellers may be unaware of a recall, it’s not unreasonable for a customer to expect a used car dealership to know about, and take care of, recall issues. But, that’s not always the case. In 2014, CarMax—the biggest used car dealer in the United States—came under fire for selling vehicles with unrepaired defects subject to safety recalls. In fact, it was discovered that over 25% of CarMax sales involved vehicles with defects. Despite the outrage of advocacy groups, CarMax and others are within their legal rights to sell these vehicles in Florida, a state which doesn’t require used car dealers to notify buyers of any open recalls.
One reason used car dealerships may not remedy recall issues is because they have to send their vehicles to the certified dealership first, just like any independent owner. This can be a costly and time-consuming process. More often, however, it comes down to a lack of information. Until recently, independent used car dealerships couldn’t access a centralized database listing all open recalls, or a database showing which vehicles have been remedied. But that’s all changed.
Today, used car dealerships can look up a vehicle’s recall history simply by visiting the NHTSA’s website and looking up the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Of course, that doesn’t mean all independent used car dealerships will do this. As the laws currently stand, it’s the responsibility of every used car buyer to research their vehicle for open recalls. So when purchasing any vehicle, we suggest buyers access the NHTSA’s VIN-search tool here to see if there is an open recall and whether it has been fixed. You can also use the site’s free SaferCar app to learn if there’s ever a safety recall for your vehicle or equipment.
NHTSA Investigation into Vehicle Defects
The NHTSA is responsible for ensuring the safety of your driving experience. The investigation is comprised of four parts:
The screening is a collection of available information on any given make or model. If they notice a high trend of failure in makes or models, then they make the decision to follow through with the recall.
2. Petition Analysis
The second step is a petition analysis, when the NHTSA receives a petition they will grant or deny it, but not without an investigation first…
The petition requests an investigation to be opened on an alleged defect. If the investigation results in the discovery of a defect, then a recall is monitored and spread.
4. Recall Management
This final step involves notifying owners if their vehicle is involved in a recall. The recall notice will be sent by the manufacturer. By law, manufacturers are required to notify every registered owner of the specific model via first-class mail.
From this point forward, it is your job as the consumer to make the decision whether to repair the defect, replace the car itself, or repurchase the vehicle equipment. What you do with the knowledge of the recall is your responsibility.
Are There Defective Car Accident Attorneys?
Yes! If you are in an accident that was caused by an automotive defect, the most important thing to do is to preserve all evidence to support a claim for car recall compensation. You will want to take pictures, make a video, and collect any other forms of data showing the accident was due to a vehicle defect or a faulty repair.
A lawyer for car issues will handle your claim through a product liability lawsuit, in addition to a car accident lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a vehicle recall you failed to receive notice of, or in which you did not receive the proper support from the manufacturer or dealership, contact the experts at Lowman Law Firm. We’ll review your case and work with you to ensure the liable parties are brought to justice and that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Our auto accident attorneys serve all of Florida, with offices in Citrus County, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County. Not able to come to us? We’ll come to you! We offer free home and hospital consultations. And, there’s never a fee until you win your case.