Car Recalls for defects

Car Recalls for defects

Pre-emptive vigilance is one of the primary ways that society as a whole can serve to avoid injury.  For example, alert driving is absolutely a crucial part of maintaining road safety, but making sure the vehicles we climb into are adequately safe and operational is just as important.

Approximately 42,000 people die every year on highways in the United States.  Furthermore, not only are auto accidents the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 34, the healthiest of the bunch, but they are also the #1 cause of paraplegia in this country.  Because of this, and the billions and billions of dollars spent each year in this country as a result, it is imperative that we go take any measures necessary to improve motor vehicle safety.  One of the main ways we can do that is through recalling defective cars and associated equipment that is already on the market.  Over the past 55 years, over 300,000,000 motor vehicles, 43 million tires, and 84 million other pieces of vehicle equipment (including child seats) have been rightfully recalled because of safety defects.

So, when is a recall in order?  Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards have set minimum performance requirements for parts of the vehicle that most affects its ability to handle in a safe manner (the brakes, tires, lighting) or that protect people in the car from death or serious injury in the event of an accident (air bags, safety belts, child restraints, and energy-absorbing steering columns).  These standards are applicable to all vehicles and associated equipment manufactured in the US or imported for sale in the US that are certified for use on public highways and roads.  A recall becomes necessary if and when a motor vehicle or related equipment item does not comply with aforementioned safety standards and/or if and when there is a safety-related defect in the vehicle or equipment.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act from 1966, when motor vehicle recalls began, gives the Dept. of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the authority to issue motor vehicle safety standards as well as to require that manufacturers recall vehicles with safety-related defects (including those that simply do not meet safety standards).

A safety-related defect is basically a problem that exists within a motor vehicle or related item that:
1.      Poses a risk to safety
2.      May exist in a group of vehicles or items of the same design or manufacture

Examples of safety defects include but are not limited to:
1.      Steering components that can break suddenly, causing loss of control over vehicle
2.      Accelerator controls that may stick or break
3.      Wheels that crack or break
4.      Air bags that deploy improperly
5.      Problems with the fuel system, specifically fuel leakage that can cause a fire

Essentially, vehicle recalls can begin because of two reasons: either the manufacturer voluntarily elects to recall the product or they are pressured to by NHTSA investigations and/or complaints by numerous vehicle owners.  Most of the time, however, manufacturers dutifully conduct safety tests and discover defects with their product and issue a recall without any intrusion from the NHTSA.

Once a recall has been issued, the manufacturer of the product being recalled must contact, within a reasonable amount of time, all registered owners and purchasers of the affected vehicles by first-class mail.  (If you lease your car, since the dealership owns the vehicle, they will be contacted by the manufacturer and they, in turn, will contact you).  In these letters, the manufacturer must inform them of the recall and instruct them on how to go about correcting the problem.  The manufacturer must remind them that corrections to the product are to be made at no charge, and inform then as to when the solution to the problem will be available, how long it will take, and who to contact if there is a problem obtaining the free work correcting the defect.

Upon determining the defect, by law, the manufacturer has three options for fixing the problem: they can repair it, they can replace it (with an identical or similar vehicle), or they can refund it (for the full purchase price, less a reasonable allowance for depreciation of the vehicle’s value).  In the case of equipment, the manufacturer is allowed to do two of the following: either repair it or replace it.  The refund option is available only to defective motor vehicles.

Hopefully this blog has given you some insight into the world of motor vehicle recalls as a result of safety defects.  Just as is the case with any other product, when you buy a motor vehicle you’re entitled to a reliable product that operates within normal parameters of safety outlined by a government agency.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg at 561-266-9191 or email us at

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