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

At NMR, we’re used to answering calls from people who find themselves in unfamiliar legal situations. One such call often begins with, “My car was recalled - what do I do?”

Receiving a recall notice can be scary and confusing, but at least it gives you a chance to remedy the problem before the defect in your car causes an accident. But what happens if your car is recalled after an accident has already caused damage, injury, or worse? This situation is a little more complex.

In this article, we will discuss what happens when a car gets recalled after an accident, and how the process should be handled.

What Happens When a Car Gets Recalled? The Evolution of the Recall Process

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 33,244 deaths occurred on U.S. highways in 2019. 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. The NHTSA provides an online tool for checking whether your vehicle has been recalled.

Do All Recalls Result from Mandates Issued by NHTSA?

No. Manufacturers can, and do, initiate many recalls on their own, without being ordered to do so. Some of these recalls are 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 Your 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.

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 you’ve spoken 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

Most people have no idea what to do when a car gets recalled, let alone after the car has already been involved in an accident. If you’re in such a situation, you probably have many questions - and we’d love to answer them. Don’t hesitate to give us a call for a free consultation today.


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