Car manufacturers in recent decades have been issuing more recalls on their vehicles. In the United States, car manufacturers must comply with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Originally enacted in 1966, the Act outlines the safety standards manufacturers must use but they also require recalls to be issued when manufacturers have safety defects or fail to meet federal standards. In most instances, manufacturers will initiate recalls on their own but when a defect is discovered the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is required to be notified. Since the inception of the Act, millions of vehicles, vehicle equipment, and car seats have been recalled.
Federal standards set minimum performance requirements for vehicle parts that most affect safety, such as brakes, air bags, and seat belts. Defects that unnecessarily increase the risk of the incident of an accident are targeted under the Act. Such defects can be in design, performance, construction, or material. Consumers who believe their car may have a defect should contact the NHTSA. If the agency receives a substantial number of such complaints they may investigate. Their findings may require a manufacturer to issue a recall. An investigation by the NHSTA comes in four phases:
- Screening- at this initial stage the agency will take in all incoming information to identify trends to see if an investigation is necessary.
- Petition Analysis- this next stage is where an investigation is accepted or denied. Reasons for denial are published in the Federal Register.
- In the investigation stage, where a preliminary evaluation will determine the need for further investigation. If, after a few months more investigation is needed, an engineering analysis will be conducted. After about a year, a recall request will be issued to the vehicle manufacturer.
- In the final stage, the agency manages the recall process for the manufacturer to ensure compliance.
Once the agency has made the decision that a manufacturer must recall, a manufacturer can appeal the decision in federal court. The agency must prove that a safety-related defect exists and that a recall is necessary.
There are several ways consumers can be notified of the recall. One common way is via first-class mail. There is also a hotline to call to determine if your product has been recalled. If you have a car, the dealership should be able to determine if there have been any recalls. It is important to register your vehicle products, such as car seats, to receive updated information. Repairs or replacements will be issued to the consumer at no additional charge, or reimbursements can be given if repairs were made before a recall. Repairs must be made within ten years of the date the defect to get them at no cost.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident involving a recalled vehicle please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.