Most vehicle owners in the U.S. have, at one time or another, received a recall notice in the mail regarding their vehicle. Sometime the recall is issue is small such as a defective interior light – other times the issue is major such as defective power steering or airbags. Either way, the notice lets you know that something has been found to be wrong with your vehicle and it could be a safety issue. So when are you responsible for paying for this defect on your own?
The first question is whether the problem with your vehicle is a safety defect or not. The law requires that manufacturers fix safety defects at no charge to the vehicle owner in most cases. However, if the defect is not safety-related then the manufacturer is not obligated by law to fix the problem free of charge. A safety defect is generally defined as a problem that poses a risk to safety and may exist in a group of vehicles with the same design or manufacturer.
Some examples of safety defects are:
- Wiring system problems that could cause a fire or a hazardous situation where lighting is critical;
- Problems with power steering components;
- Accelerator controls that may break or stick;
- Safety conditions with wheels that could result in loss of vehicle control;
- Airbag issues that cause improper inflation at improper times.
Some examples of non-safety defects are:
- Air conditioner and radio issues;
- Wear and tear of parts that need to be replaced periodically such as brake pads, batteries, shocks, etc.;
- Cosmetic issues such as rust or paint peeling.
If your car is determined to have a safety defect, the law gives the auto manufacturer three options to correct the defect – repair, replace, or refund. Generally, the manufacturer makes the choice of which of these three options to offer and sends you a notice with information about how to have the defect repaired, usually at no cost to you. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for monitoring the manufacturer’s response to a recall to ensure it complies with the law.
In the event that you need to pay for repairs before a recall is ordered, you may be entitled to reimbursement. If the repair fixed a safety issue that was later recalled, then you are entitled to reimbursement under the law with some specific time requirements. Make sure that you keep all documentation from the repairs related to the recall and contact your vehicle manufacturer for reimbursement.
It is important to note that manufacturers are only required to repair safety defects for free in vehicles that are less than 10 years old on the date the defect is determined. If your vehicle is more than 10 years old, and a safety defect is found, it is your responsibility to pay for the repair and the manufacturer does not have to provide a repair free of charge under the law. While you may have to pay the cost of the repair, it is important to do so to avoid unnecessary risk to yourself and your passengers.
The Alexander Law Group, LLC is an award-winning law firm that helps people. If you or someone you know has been injured because of a vehicle defect, contact us at 888.777.1776 for a free, confidential, and personal consultation, or contact us online.