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What Happens If You Ignore A Recall?

A product recall is usually a voluntary action taken by a company when it is discovered that something they manufacture may inadvertently contain a design defect that can cause injury to people. In some cases, this is a purely accidental situation, such as a recent recall from the Disney corporation where it was discovered the some children’s wear posed an injury threat through accidental strangulation from a particular line of clothing. In other cases, such as the Volkswagen “dieselgate” scandal, deliberate deception was involved and eventually uncovered proving false performance claims on a supposedly fuel efficient vehicle.

In cases where a product recall is announced due to injury risk, the company is taking a very aggressive, proactive stance to try and prevent personal injury lawsuits. They understand that this is a widespread, manufacturing defect, and they are taking responsibility by trying to get the dangerous product away from the public so that no one will get harmed.

So what happens if you have a car that is subject to a product recall and you do nothing? If you are later injured by that same product defect, do you still have any legal options for a personal injury case?

Circumstances Matter

Obviously, one of the best times to pursue a personal injury case is to “strike when the iron is hot,” especially if you are injured before or during a recall announcement. If you are unaware of a product defect and a company has not publicly announced that there is a widespread manufacturing defect, you had no way of knowing you were at risk simply by owning a vehicle.

However, a product recall is strictly voluntary, and statistics compiled by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration show that about 70% of recalled vehicles are usually returned for a repair or complete recall when the word gets out. That still means, however, that 30% of vehicles on notice for a product recall are not turned in by their owners, who choose instead to keep those vehicles. This means that sometimes a car can be used, without incident for years, until the owner finally decides to sell it to another person.

No Legal Obligation

It may surprise you to hear that car owners in Florida are not legally required to disclose whether or not their vehicle was the subject of a product recall. However, in many cases, car manufacturers will still honor a product recall repair, often up to five years after a recall has been announced.

Legally, this means that if you bought a new car, heard about the recall on your car, and then did nothing about it, only to get injured years later as a result of that same product defect, a personal injury lawyer would have a difficult time with your case. In this particular situation, you knew about the recall but bided your time.

On the other hand, if you bought a car used and then are subject to an injury because of that product defect, an argument can be made about you not exercising your own basic safety responsibilities, and researching ahead of time whether that model was ever the subject of a recall.

With today’s ease of access to information, it’s possible for a potential car owner to find out in seconds on a phone or a computer whether a car is a safety hazard, so pleading that it was too difficult to find out is unlikely to work in court.

The important thing to remember in a personal injury case where a product recall is involved is that the Florida statute of limitations on personal injury cases is four years. That, however, doesn’t necessarily apply to the validity of a product recall and its related injury.