A Review of the Recall System Following Massive Recall of Cars for Air Bag Defect

It was love at first sight between America and the automobile. As the years progressed, the love became dependence. With each decade that passed, Americans came to rely more and more on their cars. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the country's highways saw approximately 2.8 trillion vehicle-miles in the year 2000, an almost 4-fold increase in mileage since 1960. We place our trust in our automobiles, assuming that manufacturers comply with strict safety standards. When this trust is misplaced and a defective car causes injury or death, our Panama City defective car lawyer can help.

Manufacturers Recall Three Million Vehicles for Air Bag Defect

Air bags began to appear on the commercial market in the 1980s. Since that time, they've become a standard safety feature, and they have saved many lives. Last week, as detailed in an Associated Press report carried by the Northwest Florida Daily News, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan announced a recall of more than 3 million vehicles due to an air bag defect that might cause the passenger side inflator to burst, sending plastic pieces flying into the vehicle. Affected vehicles are believed to be spread across the globe, with North America, Latin America, Europe, Japan, and Africa among the regions impacted by the recall. The recalled vehicles include an estimated 1.7 million Toyotas, 1.1 million Hondas, and approximately 480,000 Nissans. Other auto makers may also be impacted by the recall.

The recall is focused on air bags manufactured by the Takata Corporation in Japan. Akemi Ando, a Honda spokesman, reported that the problem stemmed from two cases of human error. The first instance involved a worker neglecting to activate a switch for a system that weeds out defective products. The second error involved the improper storage of parts, an issue that exposed the parts to humidity.

The Auto Recall System: A Brief Overview

In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") has the power to issue a recall when a motor vehicle or a piece of motor vehicle equipment fails to meet federal safety standards or otherwise includes a safety-related defect. The NHTSA discusses the recall system in a booklet titled "Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls." Since the recall power was created in 1966, more than 390 million vehicles, 66 million pieces of equipment, 46 million tires, and 42 million child seats have been recalled in order to fix safety defects. Often it is the manufacturers themselves who initiate the recalls. In other cases, the recall is the result of an NHTSA investigation or an NHTSA-obtained court-order.

When the NHTSA finds that a vehicle contains a safety defect, the manufacturer has the option to repair the vehicle at no cost to the consumer, replace the vehicle with an identical or substantially similar automobile, or refund the full purchase price. Where the defect is in a piece of equipment, the manufacturer has the option to either repair or replace the item. The law does include some limitations on remedies based on the vehicle's age.

Recalls and Civil Lawsuits: Two Different Tools, One Commitment to Safety

Recalls are one important safety tool, but they do not exist in a vacuum. Recalls do not alleviate the manufacturer of all legal responsibility for their products. In the recall booklet, the NHTSA specifically addresses the question of whether an individual may still take independent legal action for injuries after a recall has been initiated. The agency replies "Yes," affirming that recalls exist in addition to (versus in the place of) other legal remedies. This means that a civil injury claim can still exist, even when a recall has been announced.

As a Panama City personal injury lawyer, Attorney Pittman has experience in both car accident and product liability cases. These areas of expertise combine when automobile defects lead to injury-causing crashes. If a defective automobile led you to suffer injury or caused the death of a loved one, Attorney Pittman can help you pursue and recover monetary compensation. Call to schedule a free consultation.

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