When a car, truck or SUV malfunctions, it can have serious consequences. Automakers have a duty to test their vehicles to make sure they are safe before selling them. Unfortunately, sometimes defects show up after the vehicles are on the road. Under those circumstances, the automakers must issue a recall to repair problems.
In January, Toyota recalled more than one million cars across the world for air bag problems and defective windshield wipers. More than 900,000 Corollas manufactured between December 2001 and May 2004 were included as part of the recall, because their air bags can inflate at the wrong time. Almost 400,000 Lexus IS cars are also part of the recall. Their wipers can stick during heavy snowfall. The Lexus recall affects vehicles manufactured from May 2005 to October 2011.
The automaker admitted that the air bag defect had lead to several crashes and 18 injuries. The wiper issue could easily result in a Missouri car accident during a late season snowstorm.
Toyota is still recovering from several large recalls in recent years related to bad brakes and sudden acceleration problems. The company recently settled a lawsuit with vehicle owners who claimed that the recalls had hurt the value of their vehicles.
What triggers a recall?
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act originally enacted in 1966 gave authority to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set vehicle safety standards.
In most cases, recalls are voluntary and issued by the manufacturer when it becomes aware of a problem. Manufacturers are generally required to make the repairs without charging the owner.
When is a recall required?
There are several reasons that a vehicle recall might issue. The first is if a motor vehicle or a part (including tires) does not meet a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. The second reason is more common and relates to a safety defect. Some examples of safety-related defects are:
- Wiring problems that might lead to fire or loss of lighting
- Seat or seatback failure
- Problems with steering components and loss of control
Many of the recent recalls have been for electrical components responsible for inflation of airbags. A Ford recall sought to remedy a problem where a back seat airbag would not deploy without a front seat passenger. That defect could result in catastrophic injuries for a child passenger during a crash, if riding with only the driver.
Does a recall affect your legal rights to sue a manufacturer?
Even after a recall, there are legal remedies available. If there was any evidence that the manufacturer knew of the defect and did not take immediate action there are times when punitive damages are even levied to punish the manufacture for its conduct.
If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident, a consultation with an attorney is one way to determine all available remedies. If a vehicle defect played a role in the accident, federal agency notification, investigation and a possible recall may mean that others do not suffer similar accidents or injuries from the defect.