How Safety Recalls For Vehicles And Motorcycles Work

Safety recalls occur when a vehicle manufacturer knows or suspects that an element of a vehicle poses a safety threat to occupants. In the recent past, Toyota has been in the news because of its extensive recalls. Sometimes, a safety hazard may affect only one make, model or year of vehicle. In other cases, the cause of the problem may be widespread across all or many of the maker's vehicles.

Regardless of the reach of the potential hazard, owners are entitled to notice that the defect exists and an opportunity to have the hazard fixed for free. This process is what is known as a recall. It is useful to know how the recall process works, what your options are in a recall and how to discover if your vehicle is subject to a recall. You may want the assistance of an experienced lawyer if the vehicle or motorcycle manufacturer fails to meet its obligations under the recall.

How A Recall Is Initiated

A recall typically starts in one of a few different ways. Sometimes, the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovers the safety defect. Sometimes, the safety defect is initially discovered by vehicle owners who make complaints that initiate action. However it begins, once the manufacturer or NHTSA knows of a safety defect in a vehicle or motorcycle, the vehicle maker is required to provide notice and the opportunity for a remedy — often a free repair of the defect — to vehicle owners.

Federal law regulates safety recalls. A safety defect is generally defined as a problem within a group of cars or other vehicles of the same design (or equipment of the same type and manufacture) that pose a safety risk. There can be recalls for issues other than safety. Those are not covered under federal law or subject to recall. They may, however, be worth speaking about to an attorney because they could form the basis for a product liability claim or suit.

Contact Piering Law Firm in Sacramento by email or call 916-596-2761.

Safety Recall Procedures

Whether the manufacturer initiates the recall or the NHTSA orders it, the vehicle manufacturer is required by federal law to take certain steps, including making contact with the owners of the vehicles affected by the recall. The required steps include filing a public report and searching for affected vehicle owners and sending a letter notifying them of the safety recall.

The public report of the safety recall must identify the vehicle or equipment that the recall involves. The report must also contain a detailed description of the defect and its potential risk, a summary of the events that led to the recall, the remedy being provided to affected vehicle owners and the timeline for the recall.

Learn If A Recall Affects You

Even without receiving an official notification letter, a vehicle owner may have reason to believe his or her vehicle is subject to a recall. The NHTSA keeps records of all vehicle safety recalls, and you can learn if your car has been recalled by contacting it. The NHTSA will have records of expired, current and ongoing safety recalls.

The NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigations is available by telephone at 916-596-2761. You can also visit the website for a list of recalled vehicle and equipment at Also on this page is information about ongoing investigations and the results of completed investigations.