Automobile Defects

When a product is put on the market, we expect it to comply with safety standards. We certainly expect that the manufacturer or seller will take precautions to protect us from any unnecessary harm. Our expectations are even higher when the product is a vehicle made for everyday use that weighs a ton or more and is capable of speeds well in excess of 70 mph.

Unfortunately, the cars we rely on in our daily lives are sometimes released into the marketplace with faulty parts or defective designs. During 2014, almost 64 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S., doubling the previous annual record in 2004 and exceeding the combined total for 2011-2013. Recall announcements were coming at the rate of two a day and affected the equivalent of one in five vehicles on the road.

The high number of car recalls illustrates a disturbing trend: Millions of cars find their way to the market with automobile defects, many of which present significant dangers to drivers or others on the road.

Those defects can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatal car accidents on South Carolina’s roads and highways. Car makers need to be held responsible when they release these defective products, and an experienced vehicle recall lawyer can help.

Types of Automobile Defects and Reasons for Recalls

A defect is an imperfection that renders the car or its parts unsafe for its intended or reasonably foreseeable uses. Many different types of automobile defects can cause accidents or put drivers at risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls Book, recalls are necessary if vehicles fail to comply with federal safety rules or if a safety issue is created by a vehicle defect.

Reasons for Car Recalls as Defined by NHTSA

  • Brake problems
  • Tire issues
  • Problems with the vehicle lights
  • Airbag issues, including airbags that don’t deploy when needed or that deploy too easily
  • Problems with seat belts or child restraints
  • Improperly designed or defective steering columns
  • Steering components susceptible to breakage
  • Fuel system components susceptible to leakage or likely to cause fires
  • Accelerators that stick or break
  • Wheels prone to cracking or breaking
  • Windshield wiper systems that don’t work to ensure visibility
  • Seats that don’t provide proper support or that fail
  • Critical vehicle parts that are prone to break away from the car or to become damaged and unusable
  • Wiring issues that could cause a fire
  • Wiring problems that could result in the loss of the use of headlights, affecting visibility
  • Weak engine cooling fan blades
  • Jacks prone to collapse.

These are a few of the major automobile defects that could result in a vehicle’s being recalled. According to NHTSA, almost 541 million vehicles have been recalled since 1966 when NHTSA began setting safety standards. The recalls included not just passenger cars but also other vehicles, such as RVs, vans, trucks and motorcycles. Additionally, tires have also been recalled in large numbers, with more than 46 million tires recalled.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Vehicle Recalls?

Yes, according to the NHTSA, there is a 10 year limitation from the date when the defect is determined.

Tracking Down Recalls

Manufacturers are required to notify consumers that a vehicle they own has been recalled because of defective or dangerous components, but a mailed notice may not reach an owner who has moved. People who are purchasing a used vehicle may not be aware that it is under a safety recall. To assist consumers, NHTSA has developed an on-line search tool. By entering a car or truck’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the owner can find out whether any recalls were issued on that particular vehicle in the last 15 years and whether they were repaired.

Motor Vehicle Defects and Safety Recalls: Who’s Responsible?

In an auto defect liability case, the law may find blame with multiple individuals or companies involved in the manufacture and sale of a car or its components. The designer, the manufacturer, the supplier or the dealer may ultimately be found liable for any injury caused by the car’s defect.

When an motor vehicle defect is to blame for a crash, product liability rules apply, and those include strict liability. These rules essentially say that manufacturers can be held responsible for injuries that arise as a direct result of an automotive defect without requiring a showing of negligence on the part of the manufacturer.