If you’re in the market for a used car, it’s important to know that you’re buying a safe car. Plenty of people buy cars that are new to them, some through dealership “certified” programs and others from a corner lot. But how do you know that the car you are buying is not affected by a dangerous open recall?
When you think about all of the deadly recalls in recent years—nonfunctioning air bags, malfunctioning seat belt pretensioners, faulty switches that cause cars to shut off—the importance of this issue becomes very clear. Defective parts can lead to horrible injuries and even death.
If you think that you can’t be sold a car with an open recall, you’re only partially correct. New cars can’t be sold if they have an unaddressed, open recall with what is called a “stop sale” order. These orders are issued by either car manufacturers or by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Regrettably, this requirement does not apply to the sale of used cars. However, state product liability law may apply if a used car dealer sells a car with a major safety defect if that defect leads to a bad accident. Consider this example:
- Pete’s Car Lot acquires a used 2010 Saturn Sky, which is a GM-manufactured car subject to a recall for a defective ignition switch. In short, the switch may turn off the car engine with no input from the driver, leading the power steering and braking to fail and causing the airbags not to deploy.
- The car has not been repaired, and Pete does not have it repaired, instead choosing to put it up for sale.
- Pete’s Car Lot sells the car to Ima Driver and does not disclose the unattended-to recall.
- One week later, Ima is in a bad crash when the faulty ignition switch turns her engine off on the freeway. She can’t control the car and slams into a telephone pole. Ima suffers from broken bones and multiple internal injuries. She accrues major medical bills and is permanently disabled as a result of the crash.
Ima should visit an experienced California accident and product liability lawyer to discuss her options, which would likely include a lawsuit against Pete’s Car Lot (as well as GM).
How can you avoid being in a situation like Ima’s?
- When you’re looking for a used car, ask whether the car is subject to any recalls that have not been addressed. Don’t assume that even a car that is “certified” has no open recalls. Ask for documentation of repairs.
- After you’ve narrowed down your selection, use the VIN to see whether the car is subject to any recalls on safercar.gov.
- Before you buy, take the car to your trusted mechanic for a safety check-up.
Other free tools you can use include the car manufacturer’s website and CarFax.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you register your “new-to-you” car with the manufacturer soon after purchase. This ensures that when recalls occur, you’ll know about them.
If you or a loved one suffered a major crash in a car with a defective part, contact the San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP right away at 888.777.1776. We have decades of experience representing accident victims and their families. Call now: Delay could harm your case.