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Auto Recalls And Liability

It seems like a straightforward argument: if a company creates a defective product, and if that product’s defect leads to a physical injury, damaged property, a loss of income, or any of the other reasons why people file civil and personal injury lawsuits, then the company responsible for the defect should be held accountable and pay the damages.

However, there are a lot of important details that a civil lawsuit can’t afford to ignore, details that could cause liability to move away from the company that created the defect. Does the company know about the defect? Is the company trying to correct this defect by issuing replacements or free repairs? And did the company reach out to car owners to make sure they know about the recall? The answers to these questions can dramatically change the course of a lawsuit.

The Company Doesn’t Know

Everyone who sells goods to other people has an obligation to avoid selling something that could be dangerous, or at least to provide warnings and clear instructions as to how to use the product correctly and avoid any dangers. For instance, a propane tank needs to have several stickers on the side explaining what makes the tank’s contents dangerous, but the danger of a sharp knife is obvious enough that it doesn’t need a warning.

Defects both hazardous and not are the reason why most products go through an inspection process, but sometimes a problem will sneak past the inspectors. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but then we are responsible for our mistakes and so auto companies are usually held liable even when they couldn’t have known they made an error.

The Company Doesn’t Say Anything

If a car manufacturer knows it’s made a mistake, they may feel the urge to hide that fact, although this is usually a bad idea in the long run. Not only can judges and juries hold them liable after someone discovers the defect, they may also face punitive damages and government fines that make a denial much more expensive than simply not knowing.

The Company Doesn’t Reach Out

Automakers have a certain obligation to reach out to everyone whose car needs a recall repair, but this step isn’t always something they pursue as actively as they should. At the same time, though, there are ways of finding out whether your vehicle has an active recall on your own, plus it can be hard to prove that you didn’t receive your recall notice, especially if you aren’t the first person to own a certain car. Still, if a company isn’t telling its customers about recalls, that’s a fineable offense.

The Owner Doesn’t Do Anything

Once the car owner knows about a defect and knows that he or she can visit an affiliated dealership for a free repair, then that customer has some responsibility for the danger the defect poses. It’s one thing if there’s a waiting period or a part shortage in your area that prevents you from getting the repair right away, but if the car owner simply avoids the fix out of laziness then he or she may bear a large amount of the responsibility of a car accident.

This translates to a smaller payout from a lawsuit against the manufacturer, and possibly a payout from you to someone else depending on the circumstances.

From this look at recall liability, it’s clear enough that as a car owner you should make sure you keep up to date regarding any recalls that might be active on your vehicle. Not only does this keep you out of a potentially problematic legal limbo, it also means that accidents are less likely thanks to cars having fewer defects. That’s a win/win for everyone involved.