Defective Vehicle Lawsuits: Defects, Recalls, and Litigation

Defective vehicle lawsuits are typically treated as product liability claims, which are claims filed by individuals who have been injured as a result of a defective vehicle including a component part in the vehicle. Examples of defective vehicle lawsuits involve defective seatbelts, roofs, airbags, door locking mechanisms, seatbacks, glass, tires and vehicular stability cases. Read on to determine what constitutes a vehicle defect and when you should file a lawsuit.

Vehicle Safety Standards

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has federal authority to issue car and truck safety standards. The NHTSA also requires vehicle manufacturers to issue a recall for safety-related defects or products that do not meet its safety standards.

What is a Safety-Related Defect?

According to the US Code for Motor Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301), motor vehicle safety is,

the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.

A defect can be related to “performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.” They typically exist in groups of cars or trucks but also exist in items of equipment in the same design or by the same manufacturer.

Some examples of safety-related defects are:

  • Accelerator controls that break or stick.
  • Steering components that break suddenly and cause partial or complete loss of control.
  • Wiring systems that result in fire.
  • Airbags that deploy under conditions for which they are not intended to deploy.

Defects that are not safety-related, and therefore not under the governance of the NHTSA are:

  • Air conditioners that do not operate properly.
  • Cosmetic blemishes.
  • Excessive oil consumption.
  • Normal wear on brake pads and shoes.

When Do Manufacturers Have To Issue a Recall?

The Federal Safety Standards cover all parts of the motor vehicle, including tires and car seats, for all vehicles and vehicle-related equipment manufactured or imported for sale within the US.

If at any time, a motor vehicle part is found to not comply with the Federal Safety Standards, the NHTSA can require a recall. Manufacturers may also be required to do a recall if there’s a safety-related defect in a vehicle or part of a vehicle.

How To Know If There’s a Recall on Your Vehicle?

If you registered your vehicle after purchase, you would receive notice of a recall in the mail. In the case that you move, you must update your registration so that you can receive recall notices.

Manufacturers are obligated to use state vehicle registration information to track down purchasers. If none exists, the manufacturer can use the distribution chain to find the purchaser’s current address.

You can also check and search the VIN of your car. Even if you have not received notice from the manufacturer, you are still entitled to a free remedy to repair the defect.

What Should You Do If There is a Recall on Your Vehicle?

If there’s a recall on your car or truck, make an appointment with your local dealership for a free repair. If the vehicle manufacturer provided any interim guidance, follow the suggestions until your repair appointment. Don’t delay the fix; a safety-related defect means that your vehicle may be unsafe to operate.

If you have already paid for a repair on a part that is later recalled, you may be entitled to a reimbursement.

The NHTSA only requires manufacturers to provide a free remedy to vehicles that are purchased new within ten years of the date that the defect is discovered. If your vehicle is outside of that timeframe, you should still have it repaired. However, the repair will be at your own expense.

Can You Take Legal Action for Injuries After a Recall is Initiated?

It is possible to have legal remedies in addition to the free auto repair. Consult one of our attorneys to see if you’re entitled to additional remedies.

If you are in an accident and have been injured or suffered other damages because of a vehicle safety defect, you may have a strong product liability claim. Litigation claims involving motor vehicles are typically due to:

  • Defectively manufactured vehicles (an error in manufacturing or a problem that occurred during shipping or while the vehicle was at a dealership), or
  • Vehicles with an unreasonably dangerous design (they were properly manufactured, but the design results in injury or damages and are discovered after the vehicle is on the market).

You may be able to make a claim even if you don’t own a defective car or truck. If you suffered an injury while you were driving someone else’s vehicle or by someone driving a defective vehicle, you may be able to sue for damages.

Many states enact safety regulations in addition to those required by the NHTSA. State laws will determine the procedure for suing because of vehicle safety defects. If you think you may have a case, reach out to Morris Haynes for a free consultation today.

If you have been severely injured and your injury was caused by a defective vehicle or component part contact our legal team at Morris Haynes for a free consultation.