Safety recalls with automobiles are all too common these days. When a flaw is discovered, auto manufacturers have a legal obligation to notify owners. Car accidents that involve vehicles with safety recalls may sometimes entitle injured persons to additional compensation in personal injury claims.
What are an Auto Manufacturer’s Responsibilities?
If a safety flaw is discovered in a vehicle, manufacturers have specific responsibilities under the law. These include:
- Filing a public report detailing the:
- Flaw or defect
- The danger involved
- The recall schedule
- The process for correcting the defect
- What led to the recall, including any significant incidents
- Searching for and notifying owners of the recalled vehicle
Vehicle owners that purchase their cars from dealerships are usually easy to find and notify via “recall letter.” Owners that purchase used vehicles from small car dealer businesses and individual auto owners are more challenging for manufacturers to locate. However, auto manufacturers must still make a “reasonable” effort to find and inform owners of any recall.
When is a Safety Recall a Factor in a Personal Injury Claim?
A safety recall can influence a personal injury claim in two main ways:
- When the manufacturer failed to meet their due diligence requirements to notify the vehicle owner,
- When the owner was aware of the recall but failed to address the safety concern.
Limitations on Recall Requirements
Recalls are governed by federal laws, but only in instances where the flaw or defect discovered presents a safety hazard. Although manufacturers are required to offer “remedies” for recalled vehicles free of charge to car owners, there are some limitations.
If the defect is discovered more than 10 years after the manufacture date, the manufacturer is required to inform owners but is not liable for:
- Paying to remedy the issue
- Damages that occur prior to the recall
- Some repair costs related to the defect that happen before the recall
In some cases, even though manufacturers are not legally required to cover these recall limitations, a skilled attorney can help you recover damages.
Suing a Large Company for Defect
If you were in an accident due to a vehicle that had a safety issue, you will have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent if you would like to be compensated. This is a difficult proposition as car manufacturers are massive global companies with teams of lawyers that are primed for this exact scenario.
To bring a lawsuit against a car manufacturer, you will have to make your claim in writing. This is called a demand letter. In the demand letter is where you can explain to the insurance company of the car manufacturer what happened, why it happened and what the damages you sustained were. Your attorney will be able to help you draft up the letter and will know what evidence to include. Photographs, witness statements, and police reports are a few of the pieces of evidence that you should start gathering as soon as possible.
After sending the demand letter, the insurance company will respond by either paying the full amount, offering a partial amount or rejecting your demand. If they do not pay the full amount, your attorney will then have to decide if you would like to take the case to trial.
What to do if You’re Involved in an Accident Due to a Safety Recall
Whether you may be liable or a car manufacturer is negligent in a recall-related auto accident, consider hiring an attorney. Although many drivers can resolve car accident insurance claims without legal help, a recall complicates matters. A personal injury attorney familiar with handling cases like yours can help protect your interests in any claim or lawsuit required.