Your Rights During a Vehicle Recall in Florida
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.
The Role of Manufacturers, Dealerships, and the NHTSA During a Vehicle Recall
When a vehicle or its parts are recalled, owners will receive a letter 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 owners 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.
Injured Due to an Unrepaired Vehicle Recall?
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.