When a consumer has been seriously or fatally injured while using a product, it could warrant a claim being filed against the auto manufacturer. Liability in certain industries, such as the auto industry, can be regulated by the federal government to ensure citizens’ protection by monitoring safety recalls.
Federal Requirements of Auto Manufacturer Liability
Any company that manufactures a vehicle and/or parts must issue a recall voluntarily when there is a known issue concerning consumer safety. Sometimes, however, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) will be the one that enforces a recall.
Even if repairs are made on a vehicle, recalls must be listed on NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov website. They are also required to be sent to registered owners of the vehicle. Despite these mandates, obtaining this information isn’t always easy. New efforts are being implemented to help improve recall awareness for consumers.
NHTSA requires automakers to include their own list of recalls on company websites. Car buyers and owners will be able to look up this information by searching via the vehicle identification number (VIN). Automakers must update recalls on a weekly basis. Potential buyers also would learn if the issue with the vehicle had been fixed.
Manufacturers have until August 14, 2014 to implement this new search feature on their sites. Many major automakers already have it available, including Honda, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and Chrysler.
Not every recall is safety related. But when they are, and there is a failure to issue one or to inform consumers, it can lead to significant fines. Recently, Japanese automakers recalled 3.4 million vehicles for an airbag defect. It happens more often than one might think. In 2012, Toyota paid $32.425 million in civil penalties, stemming from two separate cases. Both were the result of not reporting pedal entrapment issues in a timely manner. According to federal law, it must be done within five days of learning about the problem.
Delays in issuing a recall or informing an owner or buyer can increase the risk of serious injury and even death. This could lead to auto manufacturer liability for damages suffered as a result.
Auto Manufacturer Liability: Defects that Require Owner Notification
There are numerous circumstances in which safety-related defects would constitute action on behalf of an automaker. Some examples include power switches that short out with the potential to cause a fire, airbags that deploy unexpectedly or with excessive force, unintended acceleration, cracked/broken wheels, faulty wiring systems, and malfunctioning steering components.
Sometimes an auto manufacturer will challenge a recall, saying it isn’t liable. While it’s in dispute, the company still can be ordered to notify owners that NHTSA has issued one, but it is contesting liability. The good news is that this happens infrequently, and in fact, more often, it is the manufacturer that initiates a recall.
When owners are informed of a problem, it must be sent via first-class mail and must explain the safety hazard. It should also note the specific risk to drivers and occupants, along with the steps necessary to correct the problem. All remedies must be offered free of charge.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice When an Automaker Fails to Issue a Recall or Inform Owners
Legal action may be taken when an auto manufacturer doesn’t adhere to federal requirements regarding recalls if it’s directly connected to someone’s injuries or death. Talking with an auto accident attorney is an important first step. An injured victim or family of a loved one can learn if there is a case and what options might be available.
There could be damages available that address any medical costs or lost earnings associated with injuries or death. But there may be other forms of compensation that can be sought, which an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help determine. Call 800-550-0000 for more information.