What to Do If Your Vehicle is Subject to a Recall

Also see Part 1:What to Know When Your Car is Recalled.”

Recalls of defective cars and trucks seem to continually be in the news, from the Takata airbag recalls that have dominated headlines for the last two years, to a steady parade of earlier vehicle defects that have resulted in lost lives, permanent injuries and many other damages.

In my earlier post, I explained what prompts a recall, how recalls happen, and how to know if your vehicle is the subject of a recall. In this post, let’s discuss what to do when you learn that your vehicle has been recalled.

1. Don’t ignore it.

Different experts have come up with a variety of totals, but they all agree that there are tens of millions of vehicles on the road that have been recalled but have not been fixed. Is your vehicle one of them?

Recalls have become so common in recent years that some people may be inclined to not take them seriously. However, no recall is ever issued unless a genuine safety concern exists.

Some deaths and injuries that result from defective vehicles happen after a recall announcement. The owners of those vehicles either did not know about the recall or chose to ignore it. That’s not what you want to do.

When a manufacturer announces a voluntary recall, it is choosing to pay for the repairs and take a hit to its reputation rather than risk ignoring the problem. When the NHTSA is calling for the recall, it is because it has received complaints from car owners, has investigated, and has concluded that a genuine problem exists.

If the manufacturer and/or the government are not willing to ignore the problem, why would you, when the safety of yourself and your family are at stake?

Remember, announcing a recall is one way that a manufacturer minimizes its liability. If you or a family member later experience a tragedy due to a vehicle defect, you will face a bigger challenge winning financial compensation if the manufacturer announced the recall and you simply ignored it.

2. Get the defect repaired by your local authorized dealer.

The good news is that in an official recall, manufacturers are required to repair the defect at no expense to you. Only an authorized dealer can perform a no-cost repair. It does not need to be the dealer where the car was originally purchased.

3. Be careful to avoid unexpected charges.

Unfortunately, some dealers have been known to take advantage of a recall to perform additional repairs not covered by the recall and which the vehicle owner did not request.

The dealer should not charge for any work related to repairing the defect; the dealer’s compensation for that work comes from the automaker. You may want to instruct the service manager not to do any additional repairs that will incur a cost without your OK. If you are asked to sign an authorization form, read it first; you may want to strike through any language that gives the dealer authority to make repairs without checking with you first.

If you are handed an unexpected bill when you pick up the vehicle and are dissatisfied about it, talk to the service manager, then the regional service manager, then the manufacturer. If all else fails, contact the NHTSA at 888-327-4236.

4. Be prepared to wait.

Some of these recalls are so massive that dealers are not prepared to handle the repairs in a prompt manner.

Takata, for example, has to manufacture special parts to repair its airbags. The company has been accused of dragging its feet in creating the necessary parts. The airbag recalls began more than two years ago, but so far Takata has manufactured less than 4 million replacement air bag kits. However, the company says it is now producing the parts at a rate of 500,000 a month. Even at that increased rate, it will take years to repair all Takata airbags.

If you are forced to wait for a recall repair, you face a tough decision: Is it safe to continue driving your car until the defect is repaired

5. Ask for a loaner.

Some manufacturers will provide a loaner while you wait for a recall repair. For example, Honda, one of the carmakers affected by the Takata airbag problem, has provided thousands of vehicle owners with loaners and rental cars. It has even boasted about its graciousness in recent advertising.

However, the company’s instructions to dealers is to offer the loaners only when a customer requests it. You have to ask.

6. Do you need to talk to a lawyer?

If all goes well, you should be able to take your recalled vehicle to the dealer, get the repair at no cost to you, and be back on the road. It should not be necessary to obtain an attorney’s help to accomplish that.

However, most recalls are discovered only after something goes wrong and several car owners experience serious damages due to a defective vehicle. If your family has experienced a wrongful death, serious injuries, or other harms and losses because of a vehicle that been recalled due to a defect, it is important for you to contact an attorney. Obtaining the compensation you deserve requires the help of a qualified personal injury attorney.

If the defect that led to your damages has become the subject of a recall, your chances of obtaining compensation are good. You have a right to be reimbursed for wrongful death, permanent disabilities, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

For a free consultation about your legal rights, contact Oklahoma City’s leading personal injury legal firm, Hasbrook & Hasbrook. You may contact us by telephone (866-416-4737), email (cth@hasbrooklaw.com) or use our website contact form: Contact Us.

Also see Part 1: “What to Know When Your Car is Recalled.”