How Do Auto Recalls Occur and How Long Do They Last?

By April 15, 2014Product Liability

Toyota recently announced it is recalling 6.3 million vehicles due to defective parts that could lead to problems with the vehicles’ air bags and steering, among other concerns. Sound familiar? It should, as General Motors has been all over the news for its recall of 2.6 million vehicles for a faulty ignition switch that could affect the cars’ air bags, brakes and power steering.

Numerous lawsuits involving the recalled vehicles have been filed against GM. The automaker allegedly knew of the problem for years, which has been linked to at least 13 deaths, but did nothing to fix it. Gray, Ritter & Graham has filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit on behalf of Missourians who bought and currently own one of the recalled GM vehicles. The firm is also investigating personal injury lawsuits on behalf of those who suffered crash-related injuries while in one of the recalled GM cars.

Given all this attention generated by these automobile recalls, just how do recalls happen?

Voluntary and Mandated Auto Recalls

Auto recalls are either done voluntarily by the automaker or ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mandated recalls are initiated by customer complaints made to the NHTSA. If it receives a suitable amount of complaints, the federal agency investigates.

Following the investigation, the NHTSA may order a recall. Once this is done, the auto manufacturer by law must notify by mail all registered owners of the affected vehicles. The notification includes an explanation of the potential safety threats – the reason for the recall – and provides owners a way to get the problem fixed at no cost to them.

If an owner has the repair done prior to the recall, he or she may be reimbursed by the manufacturer with proper documentation. Auto recalls generally are enforced until either the automaker goes out of business or the defective part is no longer available.

Auto recalls are not uncommon. But when they do occur, owners of recalled vehicles may have legal claims for damages they’ve experienced – physical or financial – as we’ve seen in the recent GM recall.