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What Happens When Auto Makers Do Not Recall Defective Vehicles in a Timely Manner?

July 21, 2017 | Category: Automobile Accidents, Defective Products | Share

What Happens When Auto Makers Do Not Recall Defective Vehicles in a Timely Manner? - Spivey LawThe NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is the federal oversight agency for defective vehicles. In June 2017 NHTSA announced that General Motors’s safety practices are no longer under the oversight of federal regulators. 

The NHTSA oversight set three immediate priorities: 

  1. Protect the driving public by ensuring that GM quickly recalled and fixed all vehicles that could be affected by this defect.
  2. Hold GM accountable for any failure to follow the legal requirement to quickly report and recall the subject vehicles, and
  3. Improve NHTSA’s ability to find potential defects.

Why was GM under NHTSA oversight? 

Three years ago during its investigation, NHTSA found that some GM employees were aware of faulty ignition switches and kept the problem quiet. This situation rose to the highest level at GM with the CEO trying to keep the problem quiet by dismissing employees, and settling cases brought by victims’ families. GM has since paid more than $2 billion in fines, penalties and victim compensation. 

The faulty ignition switches in millions of small GM cars contributed to 124 deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. The defect was caused by the ignition switches being easily bumped out of position by a driver’s knee or rough terrain. When this happened, the power would be cut off to the airbag, steering and braking systems.

 In the settlement reached with the NHTSA, GM was to pay a civil penalty, agree to make significant safety changes and submit to regular safety oversight meetings by the NHTSA.

The Detroit News reported that GM paid a $900 million fine in a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the faulty ignition switches in 2015. Under that agreement, the automaker was overseen by a federal monitor who had access to GM employees, meetings and documents and made recommendations for corporate changes in vehicle safety. 

GM plans to continue its relationship with the NHTSA. 

Nick Bunkley of  Automotive News reported on June 22, 2017 that even though GM is no longer obligated to be under federal oversight, it plans to continue to meet with the NHTSA monthly to discuss field investigations, recalls and other safety issues it encounters as well as industry-wide safety matters. GM, according to Mr. Bunkley, feels their relationship with the NHTSA is cooperative. 

How does a recall work? 

Once a safety-defect determination is made, the law gives the manufacturer three options for correcting the defect: 

  • Repair at no charge
  • Replacement of the vehicle or part with an identical or similar vehicle or part
  • Refund the purchase price in full, minus a reasonable allowance for depreciation 

Most of the time automakers make recalls on a voluntary basis without the involvement of NHTSA. However, there are some that are mandated by the agency like the GM ignition switch recall. Even if the recall is not government-mandated, NHTSA monitors manufacturer compliance regarding notification and corrective action. 

Vehicle recalls have a statute of limitation. 

According to the NHTSA, vehicle recalls are subject to a statute of limitation. In order to be eligible for a no-charge recall repair, the vehicle cannot be more than 10 years old calculated from the original sale date of the vehicle to the first purchaser. Also, if the manufacturer challenges the agency’s final decision of a safety defect, there is no obligation for the manufacturer to remedy the defect while the case is in court. 

How to find out whether your vehicle has been recalled. 

Within a reasonable time after the determination of a safety defect or noncompliance, manufacturers must notify, by first-class mail, all registered owners and purchasers of the affected vehicles of the existence of the problem and give an evaluation of its risk to motor vehicle safety. The letter must also instruct consumers on how to get the problem corrected, remind them that corrections are to be made at no charge, inform them when the remedy will be available, how long the remedy will take to perform, and whom to contact if there is a problem in obtaining the free recall work. You can find out if your vehicle has been recalled by calling the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or 800-424-9393, visiting the NHTSA website, or contacting the manufacturer or your dealer. 

“Defective vehicles can be the cause of serious injuries or deaths as in the case of the GM ignition switches. Please contact our Fort Myers Accident Law Firm, if you or a family member has been affected by a defective vehicle,” said Attorney Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.


Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to  Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.



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