How to Check for Vehicle Safety Recalls

Not all vehicles come off the assembly line road-ready. Some contain dangerous defects from the manufacturer or distributor. These defects can impact the safety and roadworthiness of a motor vehicle, as well as its ability to protect occupants in a crash. Although manufacturers have high standards of care in terms of vehicle safety, many cut corners in an attempt to save money. The best way to keep yourself safe is to check often for vehicle safety recalls.

Will You Hear From the Automaker?

When a vehicle manufacturer or distribution company receives reports about auto part defects and related injuries, it lawfully must issue a recall notice. If the company does not issue a notice within a certain time limit, a national authority such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will issue the recall instead. Once an automaker issues a recall, it will contact each consumer individually that is on record purchasing the vehicle.

If you receive a letter in the mail or an email from your automaker about a vehicle safety recall, follow the company’s instructions for how to remedy the situation right away. The letter should contain all the information you need about the recall, including the nature of the recall, whether it is safe to continue driving your vehicle and the next step for repairs. The company may pay to have your vehicle towed to the nearest shop for repairs if it is a dangerous or time-sensitive recall. Otherwise, you may be able to drive to the dealership yourself for free repairs.

What If You Purchased Your Vehicle Used?

If you did not purchase your vehicle brand new from the dealer, you may not receive a letter in the mail about a recall. Manufacturers do not have an obligation to search for secondhand buyers. Instead, it will be up to you to stay on top of the latest vehicle recalls yourself through an authorized resource such as the NHTSA’s vehicle identification number (VIN) search tool.

Find your vehicle’s VIN on the inside of the driver’s side door or the lower left side of your vehicle’s windshield. It is a 17-character number that is unique to your vehicle. Your vehicle’s registration card will also list the VIN, as may your car insurance card. Enter your VIN into the NHTSA’s search tool and press search. The tool will automatically search for every safety recall related to your car’s make and model within the last 15 calendar years.

Your vehicle will appear on the recall list if it is in the system as an unrepaired vehicle with a safety defect. The tool will show safety recalls from all major automakers, motorcycle manufacturers and some heavy truck manufacturers. If your vehicle has a repaired recall, the tool will not return any results. It will also not work for international vehicles or the most recently announced safety recalls.

Did a Defect Cause Your Accident?

If you were unaware of a vehicle recall or safety notice and drove a defective vehicle, you could be eligible for financial compensation from the automaker for a related car accident. This is also true if you are one of the first people to discover a vehicle defect, before the company has received enough complaints to issue a recall notice.

In general, an automaker will be liable for a car accident if the vehicle contained a defect and this caused the collision, regardless of whether the automaker was negligent. If, however, the manufacturer has a record of sending you the recall notice and you drove your vehicle anyway, this may interfere with your ability to recover compensation. Contact a car accident attorney in San Antonio for advice about an injury related to a vehicle safety recall.

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