What Happens if My Car is Recalled After I’ve Been in an Accident?

Our lives are often so busy that the last thing that we think we want to see in the mailbox is a recall notice for our car or truck. It can seem as though we’ve just received one more chore to add to the list. But the truth is, we should actually consider ourselves lucky when we learn of the existence of a problem before someone suffers an injury.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes the recall notice doesn’t come quickly enough and the dangerous defect has already done its damage. In this article, we will discuss what happens if a car is recalled after an accident, and how the process should be handled.

What Happens if a Car Is Recalled? The Evolution of the Recall Process

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 35,000 deaths occurred on U.S. highways in 2015. In addition to losing lives, it is estimated that society suffers economic loss of more than $230 billion annually. Thus, motor vehicle safety is an important government objective. And according to the federal government, an important part of increasing vehicle safety is removing dangerous or unsafe vehicles from the road.

Thus, in 1966 Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which authorizes NHTSA to perform two functions relevant to this discussion: (1) create vehicle safety standards; and (2) require automobile manufacturers to recall vehicles that do not meet the standards, or that have safety defects. Since the act became law, there have been recalls in excess of 390 million cars, trucks, R.V.s, buses, mopeds and motorcycles. In addition, millions of tires and other pieces of equipment have been recalled.

Do All Recalls Result from Mandates Issued by NHTSA?

The answer is “no.” Manufacturers can, and do, initiate many recalls on their own, without being ordered to do so. Some of these recalls are truly completely voluntary. However, it should be noted that when a defect is discovered, the law requires manufacturers to give notice to NHTSA. Therefore, some voluntary recalls are certainly influenced by NHTSA investigations. Finally, some recalls are required by NHTSA, and some are ordered by the courts.

What Happens if a Car Is Recalled after an Accident?

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and your car is subsequently recalled, it’s certainly possible that the very issue causing the recall contributed to the cause of your accident. If so, you have rights that could be based on concepts of negligence and/or products liability. Of course, it’s also possible that the recall is totally unrelated to the accident. Therefore, it’s important to carefully research this potential linkage. But keep in mind that your car may be your most important piece of evidence. Therefore, you should not turn it over without first consulting with an attorney. However, you must also consider your own safety. Depending on the nature of the recall, it may be unwise and unsafe to drive the car until it is properly repaired.

In summary, here are some important steps you can take if your car is recalled after an accident:

  • Do not make repairs or turn your vehicle over to a third party until speaking with a lawyer to ensure that you have properly preserved all relevant evidence.
  • Photograph the accident scene, the vehicles involved, and all injuries.
  • Keep all evidence you have gathered, including a written record of any statements made by others involved in the accident.
  • Once you’ve received a recall notice, do not drive your automobile if it puts you in harm’s way.

Call with Questions

Just like everyone else, automobile manufacturers have a duty to society. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we believe that everyone is further endangered if we do not work to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions which violate the law. If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another, or due to wrongful conduct of an automobile manufacturer, please call us with your questions. These are often difficult cases, which require careful investigation and evaluation. We are here to help.


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