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Motor Vehicle Defect Recalls

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Motor Vehicle Defect Recalls

One of the most common vehicle defect issues faced by the public is that of safety recalls of a motor vehicle. Safety recalls are usually instigated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the vehicle manufacturers themselves, in response to a discovered defect in a vehicle or a component of that vehicle. So it is important to understand the procedure that is followed in vehicle recalls, and the respective responsibilities of those involved.

Manufacturers' Duties And The NHTSA

Whether a safety recall is conducted by the vehicle's manufacturer or is ordered by the NHTSA, the manufacturer must file a public report describing:

  • The safety-related defect or noncompliance with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard;
  • The involved vehicle/equipment population;
  • The major events that resulted in the recall determination;
  • A description of the remedy; and
  • A schedule for the recall.

Motor vehicle manufacturers have a duty to attempt to notify owners of recalled vehicles or vehicle equipment. For vehicle recalls, this means that manufacturers merge their own records of vehicle purchasers with current state vehicle registration information. And for equipment recalls, in situations where state registration records do not exist, manufacturers are obligated to notify their distribution chain and known purchasers of the recalled equipment. Importantly, even if you do not receive a notification of a recall, if your vehicle, or other item of equipment such as a child seat, is the subject of a safety recall, the manufacturer is obligated to provide a free remedy.

Under Federal law, safety problems must be remedied without cost to consumers. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) monitors each safety recall to ensure the manufacturers provide owners safe, free, and effective remedies according to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, and federal regulations. The NHTSA also releases monthly lists of motor vehicle safety recalls. These lists identify the make and model of the vehicle or equipment involved, with a brief description of the safety problem. The NHTSA publicizes the recalls to alert consumers about safety problems and encourages them to take action. However, the agency urges owners to wait until they receive notification from the manufacturer before contacting their dealers to schedule any necessary repair work. This is because not all vehicles of a particular make and model may be subject to the recall.

What You Can Do

Consumers can get up-to-the-minute information on safety recall campaigns, or information on the recall history of a particular make and model of car, truck, motorcycle, or child safety seat, by calling the NHTSA's toll-free Auto Safety Hotline, 1-888-327-4236, or by accessing NHTSA on the Internet at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov. The Hotline also can be used to report safety problems.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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