What you should know about the “Year of Recalls”

Auto Recall Attorney - The Cooper Firm

What you should know about the “Year of Recalls”

2014 definitely amounted to the “year of recalls,” with over 60.5 million vehicles recalled for product defects.  Many of the recalls involved defects that could result in severe injury or even death, so-called “safety-related defects.”  Manufacturers recalled the largest number of vehicles since 1999. With all the ever-expanding recalls, drivers should know a few things.

What is a recall?  A recall is required when a manufacturer or our government safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), determines that a vehicle or part of the vehicle creates a risk to safety or fails to meet safety standards. The manufacturer must then make appropriate changes to fix the vehicle or any component part.  In most cases the manufacturer will repair the defect, but in some cases they will replace the part, offer an equipment refund, or (in rarer cases) repurchase the vehicle.

Although limited, there are ways to know if your vehicle is under recall and if it has already been fixed after an earlier recall.  This year NHTSA released its Vehicle Identification Number (“VIN”) search system and requires all auto manufacturers to update the system weekly with recalled vehicles. This program enables you to type in your vehicle’s VIN to see if the vehicle is subject to any recalls or if certain recalled vehicles have already been fixed. You can visit the site at www.safercar.gov/.  Auto makers are also legally required to send out letters to owners updating them of recalls on their vehicles within 60 days, but their systems are sometimes outdated and only notify customers via snail mail. You can also register to get email or text notifications from NHTSA at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm.  The SaferCar app is also available for Apple and Android phones, and will send you notifications based on your preferences.   Some manufacturers also have their own apps that will alert you if there has been a recall.

Where can you find your VIN? You can locate your VIN by looking at the bottom left-hand side of your vehicle’s windshield, or you can look at your vehicle’s registration card or insurance card.   Again, you might also find it in the manufacturer’s app, which links to your vehicle.

Every recall is important and the defect should be fixed immediately.  There have been recalls because of loose or defective ignition switches that shut off your moving vehicle—and cut off many of its critical safety features.  Some 42 people have died from that defect alone.   Other recalls involve less dangerous defects with no reported complaints or injuries, but all are important and should be fixed.   Every recall should be handled the same way: with care and urgency.  If you receive a recall letter in the mail or see that your vehicle is under recall in a VIN search, be sure to take your vehicle to your nearest dealership to have them make the necessary repairs.  Similarly, be sure to register your vehicle with the manufactures after a new or used purchase, so that they can reach you.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a defective product or vehicle, always contact an attorney to learn how to protect your rights.

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