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Recall Notices And Liability: Who Pays For A Faulty Vehicle Accident?

The number of automotive recalls has gone way up in recent years. Partly that’s because some of the biggest national and international recalls of all time have happened one after another, and partly it’s because automakers are responding to these big recalls by being extra careful and issuing more recalls for smaller problems. Also, new vehicles are much more complicated than older models, so they have more parts and more software that can go wrong.

If an automaker creates a vehicle with a serious safety problem and someone gets hurt because of it, the law is clear: whether they knew about the problem or not, they are at fault for selling a dangerous and unpredictable product. If they found out about the fault and then tried to hide the problem from regulators and the public, then they could also face charges and fines from the government. But what happens if a faulty part causes an accident after the company finds the problem and sends out a recall notice?

A Recall Notice Doesn’t Pin Responsibility On The Consumer

It’s important to remember that, whether a car company sends out a recall notice or not, they’re still the ones who created a faulty product and sold it to their customers in the first place. They caused the problem, and they’re still ultimately responsible if the defect injures someone or destroys the vehicle. You may have some responsibility of your own to act on a recall notice when you receive one, but if you get into an accident because of a recalled auto defect, the fault for the accident isn’t all on you.

A Recall Notice Can Have Its Own Defects

A lot of automakers aren’t as diligent as they should be, even when they issue recalls. Companies need to send a notice that clearly states the problem and what the owner should do about it, and they need to send these notices to the current owner. A lot can happen that keeps an auto owner from fixing their vehicle as soon as possible:

• An automaker might declare a recall to the regulator and to the news but then drag their heels when the time comes to send out notices to every owner. An owner can always check the news or the recall database to find outstanding recalls, but automakers can’t assume they always will.

•An automobile might trade hands just after the recall goes out. Dealerships have some responsibility to check for open recalls and inform their customers about them, but there’s much less regulation when it’s a private sale.

•A recall notice needs to be clear about what the problem is and what the owner needs to do to fix it. Normally that means going to an affiliated dealership that will replace the defective part for free, but the automaker shouldn’t assume that every driver knows this.

Not Every Driver Can Get A Recall Repair Immediately

Another factor that complicates recall accidents is whether the driver can go in for the recall repair right away. The repair job might not cost any money, but it can take up some valuable time. An owner with two jobs and rowdy kids might have trouble finding the time to visit the dealership, even if the repair itself takes five minutes. The nearest affiliated dealership might be in the next county, or the owner might have to keep driving before a scheduled repair and risk an accident.

Because of all of these factors, it’s not clear-cut who’s responsible when a defective part causes an accident even after an automaker issues a recall for it. So if something along these lines happens to you, you should contact a personal injury law firm in your area and speak to them for an initial case review. You may have a better chance of collecting compensation than you thought, especially with trained professionals on your side.