Involved in a Crash With a Recalled Vehicle – Who is Liable?

by Gina Corena

Last Updated on September 28,2023

Involved in a Crash With a Recalled Vehicle – Who is Liable?

In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 1,035 recalls that affected more than 35 million vehicles, parts, and accessories.

Vehicles are not the only products subject to recalls or defects. The domain of product liability extends beyond automobiles. For instance, there have been cases where defective medical devices posed significant risks to patients. Such issues underscore the importance of being vigilant about all kinds of products, as you can see in various product liability cases.

Thousands of Ferraris sold in the US since 2005,  have been recalled for brake problems. According to the NHTSA, the recall specifically applies to the brake fluid reservoir cap that may not vent properly, creating a vacuum possibly leading to brake fluid leak and loss of brakes.

These regular recalls by carmakers leave drivers exposed to safety issues, and sometimes car crashes. A recalled electronic or complex component in a recalled vehicle may have been the cause of an accident. Victims involved need to know who is liable, to protect them now and in the future.

What are Car Defects and Recalls?

 Common car manufacturing defects include:

  • Tires
  • Airbags
  • Brakes
  • Windshields
  • Car seats
  • Steering
  • Seat belts
  • Door handles/latches
  • Fuel systems
  • Roofs

When a car manufacturer or government agency finds out that one of these parts, products, or systems is unsafe for drivers, they issue a recall. This rolls out to the public in a few steps, which include:

  • A further investigation into the product and how it does not meet the minimum safety standards.
  • A public announcement by the car company or agency about the recall to warn car owners.
  • Repairing, replacing, or reimbursing vehicle owners for the defective product by the car company.

What is Required in a Car Recall?

The NHTSA requires car or part manufacturers to file an official recall report that should include this specific information:

  • All details on the vehicle or equipment and product number of the recall
  • A detailed description of the defect
  • An explanation of what led to the decision to recall the product/vehicle
  • What the solution to the problem will be
  • The schedule of the recall

That schedule, once the recall report is filed, forces manufacturers to attempt to notify vehicle owners by first class mail within 60 days. This recall letter should tell owners how to get the defective issue fixed, the time frame for when it can be fixed, how long the repair should take, who to contact if there are any problems getting the repair made, and make sure car owners know there is no charge for the recall for the repair or replacement. The manufacturer can also choose to refund the vehicle, which would be the purchase price minus the amount of depreciation.

Kia, for instance, recently recalled nearly 258,000 Optima sedans from the years 2012 and 2013 because a metal part could potentially detach and strike passengers when the side airbags deploy in a crash, causing injuries. Through the NHTSA, Kia plans to notify owners of recalled vehicles by mail starting September 26, 2022. They have also provided a phone contact number and plan to repair the recall by adding an industrial-grade adhesive tape over the left and right headliner plates.

Who is Responsible for a Crash with a Recalled Vehicle?

Car or parts manufacturers are not the only parties liable for injuries sustained by a car accident with a recalled vehicle involved. Legally, retailers, distributors, mechanics, a car dealership, and the vehicle owner who may have ignored the safety recall may also be responsible.

It will take an experienced personal injury lawyer to carefully dissect through cutting-edge research a lawsuit claim made against a manufacturer or other companies. A driver that is filing one is not automatically eligible for financial compensation for injuries or damages. Other factors of the car crash that will impact or strengthen the plaintiff’s case include:

  • When the owner received the recall notification (before or after the accident)
  • If the recall letter was detailed and understandable to warn the owner of the car defect
  • Whether or not the driver of the recalled vehicle got their vehicle repaired

For example, drivers of 2009 and 2010 select Toyota vehicles who did not comply and get the recall corrected that caused the accelerator pedal to get stuck all the way down and, because of that, were involved in a car accident, would be liable. The responsibility would shift away from the manufacturer.

What if the Driver is not the Original Car Owner?

According to Kelley Blue Book, it is a good idea for drivers to contact the manufacturer via online or the owner’s manual and let them know they are the new owner. The car’s VIN, the driver’s name, and home address will then be placed in a database by the manufacturer. 

There is a statute of limitations for any no-charge recalls of eight years from the original vehicle sale date, whether drivers are the original owner or not. While current owners could still qualify for a recall, if it is older than eight years, they may be expected to pay to have the defective part replaced or repaired. 

How to Know if a Car Has Had a Recall

On the NHTSA Safety issues & Recalls web page, enter the 17-digit VIN, which will result in showing a vehicle that was unrepaired but had a safety recall in the past 15 years, and any overall safety recalls from major light automakers, motorcycle manufacturers, and some medium to heavy truck manufacturers. 

Be aware that this VIN search tool, however, will not show:

  • Any international vehicles
  • Any vehicles with a repaired safety recall, which will be signified with the message: “0 unrepaired recalls are associated with this VIN.”
  • Any delays on recently announced safety recalls before VINs have been entered
  • Any safety recalls connected to small vehicle manufacturers, ultra-luxury brands, and specialty lines
  • Any safety recalls that are older than 15 years

How Drivers Can Protect Themselves if Involved in a Crash with a Recalled Car

When there is a personal injury case filed because of a car crash that involved one recalled vehicle, the plaintiff has the legal right in Nevada to recover an unlimited amount of compensatory economic damages, which can include:

Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are capped off at $350,000. Rewards for punitive damages, when the driver’s conduct that caused the accident is ruled as a result of intention, fraud, or malice, is also on the table. 

Car accidents can be a traumatic experience, especially if you’ve been injured. Our team of legal experts is here to provide car accident help in Las Vegas to those who need it most. We’ll work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the care and compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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