Federal law mandates that auto manufacturers must issue a safety recall once becoming aware of a potentially harmful defect. An auto manufacturer recall is most often done by mail. However, there are reasons why you may not receive a recall notice. You could miss a notice if you are traveling, lose the notice in your mail pile or inbox, or have recently moved.
Certain safety recalls can put you and your family at risk of suffering a catastrophic or fatal injury. It is very important to determine the recall status of your vehicle. Fortunately, it is quite simple to check for open and unfixed recalls.
Using the NHTSA’s VIN Search Tool
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a tool on its website that allows you to check for open recalls.
Before you can use this tool, you will need your 17-digit vehicle identification number (also called the VIN). You should be able to find this number on your insurance or vehicle paperwork. It may also be near the dashboard on the driver’s side of your vehicle.
Once you have the VIN, you can plug it into NHTSA’s website to check for open recalls. Keep in mind that the NHTSA site may not list very recently announced recalls or recalls for certain types of vehicles. The site will also not list recalls that are more than 15 years old.
What If My Vehicle Has an Open Safety Recall?
If your vehicle shows up in the search results, there is no need to panic about paying for repairs. Auto manufacturers must provide free repairs if your vehicle has an open recall. You would need to take it to a location that is approved by your automaker to perform repairs.
Certain types of defects make your vehicle too dangerous to drive. Depending on the type of defect involved, it may be necessary to have your vehicle towed to the repair shop. For example, certain types of Honda Civics with Takata airbag inflators are too dangerous to drive due to the risk of the inflator rupturing and causing injuries or deaths. Ask your dealership about towing services under the circumstances.
You may also need a loaner vehicle if repairs are expected to take an extended period of time. Ask your dealership if they can provide a loaner vehicle if one is necessary.
Can I Sue for an Auto Defect?
You may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer if a defect caused injuries or losses. Automakers are strictly liable for injuries and deaths caused by defects. You would not need to demonstrate the automaker was negligent. Additionally, you may also be able to file a lawsuit, even if the automaker issued a recall.
An attorney at our firm can help you determine whether it would be possible to sue an auto manufacturer for damages caused by a defect. We have experience with auto defect cases and can walk you through your possible legal options during a free consultation.