Mechanics working on car

Is It Important To Pay Attention To Car Recalls?

When it comes to car recalls, it can be difficult to get the American public motivated. reported that 2014 was a record year for recalls with 803 total recalls that affected almost 64 million vehicles. You would think that after the Ford tire issue and the Toyota inexplicable acceleration debacle that people would take recalls seriously.

However, NBC News reports that response rates to recalls can be as low as 30 percent, which is a concern to manufacturers and government officials.

Mechanics working on car

Why Is There A Low Car Recall Response Rate?

Response rates for car recalls range from 30 to 70 percent, with the rare 90 percent or higher happening on occasion. In most cases, publicized auto accidents tend to push response rates higher. When there is the possibility for driver injuries, that tends to motivate consumers to get something done.

However, the response numbers for recalls generally trend to the lower side, and there are a couple of reasons for that. Car manufacturers are only required to keep sales records on cars from 2013 to the current day. With cars that were made or sold before 2013, it can be very difficult to track down the owners. This means that those owners never get their recall notices and have no idea their car may have an issue.

Problems With Customer Tracking

Another problem is the way in which manufacturers attempt to reach out to owners. The two most common ways for owners to find out about recalls are to get something in the mail from the manufacturer or look up their car model on But if the card gets mixed in with junk mail and the owner never checks online, then they may have no idea there is a recall in effect.

The government works together with manufacturers to release recall information to the media. In so doing both parties are trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. Whether a recall is initiated by the manufacturer or mandated by the government, the attempt to contact consumers is usually a joint effort. But in many cases, that effort falls short.

Product Liability With Recalled Cars

The issue of product liability when it comes to recalled cars is complicated. The mere fact that a car has been recalled does not constitute negligence on the part of the manufacturer. When there is a car accident product liability case; the manufacturer, distributor, and dealership that made and sold the car can be held liable. The extent to which each party is liable depends on what happened leading up to the accident.

In most states, juries are not allowed to hear about recall notices when it comes to a product liability case involving a defective automobile. The plaintiff has to prove that the particular automobile in question was defective because of actions of the manufacturer. It is not enough for a consumer to claim negligence simply because the car was recalled.

On the other hand, issuing a recall does not necessarily mean that the manufacturer can wash its hands of a lawsuit. In many courts, the manufacturer has to prove that it was able to reach that specific consumer. The consumer should have been reached with detailed information about the recall before the court will allow the recall to work in the favor of the manufacturer. Broad recall notices and media coverage are not going to help a manufacturer to prove that they did everything they could to help that one, specific consumer.

When Is The Manufacturer Negligent?

The primary agency that gets involved in auto recalls for the federal government is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA responds to complaints against a particular vehicle and then launches its own investigation. When the NHTSA feels it has enough evidence, it will approach the manufacturer about a recall.

There are two types of recall notices the NHTSA can send to manufacturers. The NHTSA can recommend a recall or the NHTSA can demand a recall. Normally, there will be stiff penalties against the manufacturer if they do not respond to a mandatory recall. If the manufacturer decides to ignore a mandatory recall, then the NHTSA may issue the recall itself and then charge the manufacturer for any costs involved.

When there is a recommended recall, sometimes the product liability can become cloudy. There is a documented case of the NHTSA recommending to a tire manufacturer that they recall a certain model of tire. The NHTSA presented a comprehensive case, but the manufacturer refused because the recall would be too costly. When a consumer was injured because that particular tire exploded, the recommendation of the NHTSA turned out to be damaging evidence against the manufacturer.

Car engine

Suing A Manufacturer

The presence of a recall on a particular vehicle model does not automatically open the floodgates for lawsuits against the manufacturer. If you feel as though you have some kind of case against a manufacturer for negligence, then it is advisable that your case not involves any recalls. It is more than likely that you will not be able to use the recall in court against the manufacturer, as most courts do not allow it.

If you feel that your accident was the result of something the manufacturer did or did not do to your vehicle, then your case must focus on your specific vehicle. If it can be discovered that the NHTSA strongly recommended a recall that was ignored by the company, then this could become a part of your case. But your chances of winning a lawsuit against a car manufacturer based solely on a recall is very slim.

Consumers Need To Take Heed Of Notices

With nearly 70 percent of affected consumers ignoring recall notices, the idea of product liability becoming part of a lawsuit gets cloudy. The manufacturers claim they are doing everything they can to warn consumers of recalls, while consumers claim the notification process is not enough.

The end result is that the NHTSA estimates that one out of every six recalled cars has never been serviced for their recall. These recalls range from faulty tire pressure stickers to malfunctioning air bags. As long as consumers continue to ignore recall notices, the battles over product liability will continue to rage on.

Consumer Car Recall Follow Up

As a consumer when the recall notices come up, as already mentioned, do not ignore the notice. Although this is initiated by a manufacturer or car maker, it is the responsibility of the driver to take action. If there is any suspicion about your car’s safety or that there might be a defect, you as a consumer have a right to file a complaint as well. Complaints can be made with the car maker as well as with the government. In the event that a complaint is filed by a consumer, you would need to provide your car’s make, model, year, and car identification number. A brief description is also necessary, explaining what the problem is with the car.

Another step that is available to consumers is filing a lawsuit if there were injuries suffered while using the defective vehicle. However, as already stated earlier, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to filing this particular type of product liability.  As a consumer, if there is a problem with your vehicle beyond its regular servicing, it is wise to be alert and informed.

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