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Who’s Liable When a Recalled Car or Truck Causes a Crash? 

Written by Tom Crosley
Airbag Cases, Car Accidents, Defective Products, Product Liability, Tire Cases, Vehicle Wrecks
  1. 1. What Is a Product Recall?
  2. 2. Who Is Responsible for a Defective Vehicle?
  3. 3. How Does a Vehicle Recall Affect My Injury Claim?
  4. 4. How Can I Protect Myself and My Rights During a Recall?
  5. 5. Crosley Law: Product Liability Attorneys in San Antonio Texas

Today’s cars and trucks are remarkably complex, containing countless parts and systems that keep us safe and comfortable. However, carmakers regularly recall vehicles and components due to design and manufacturing defects. In 2018 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced 1,035 recalls involving more than 35,000,000 vehicles, parts, and accessories.

After a car crash involving a recalled vehicle, you may wonder if the company is financially responsible for your injuries. Depending on your circumstances, the answer may vary. Keep reading to learn more about vehicle product liability cases, how recalls may affect your claim, and how to protect your rights if you’ve been injured by a defective product.

What Is a Product Recall?

A recall occurs when a government agency or manufacturer realizes that a product is not safe to use. There are typically four main steps in a car or truck recall:

  • The government or the manufacturer identifies a defective product.
  • An investigation determines that the product does not meet minimum safety standards.
  • The company or agency publicly announces a recall and notifies vehicle owners.
  • The company repairs the defect, replaces the part, or reimburses vehicle owners for the product.

In recent years, safety recalls involving airbags, tires, and car seats have made the national news. Unfortunately, recalled products still cause many injuries. For example, dangerous Takata airbags have injured hundreds of people and caused at least 16 deaths in the United States—with the most recent fatality occurring in March 2019.

Who Is Responsible for a Defective Vehicle?

If a defective tire, airbag, engine system, or other part contributed to your crash, you may have multiple legal claims. Vehicle and part manufacturers are typically the focus of most product liability claims. Under our laws, they must:

  • Identify design and manufacturing issues with their products
  • Notify vehicle owners of potential dangers
  • Provide adequate information to keep us safe

If they violate any of these duties, the companies may owe you and other victims compensation for your injuries.

However, manufacturers are not the only ones who may be financially responsible for your injuries. Under Texas product liability laws, you may also have claims against retailers, distributors, your dealership, and others that failed to protect you from harm.

Finally, if a vehicle owner ignores a safety recall, they may also be responsible for your injuries.

RELATED: Takata Airbags: Dangerous Defects and What to Do About Them

Unfortunately, identifying exactly who is to blame for your injuries takes significant technical knowledge and expertise. Manufacturers and other companies aggressively defend themselves against product liability claims. To build a compelling case against them, you’ll need a sophisticated injury lawyer who applies cutting-edge research and partners with respected experts.

How Does a Vehicle Recall Affect My Injury Claim?

A safety recall does not mean that you’re automatically entitled to compensation or damages. While a recall may serve as valuable evidence, a variety of factors can impact the strength and value of your product liability claim.

When a company recalls a product, it’s admitting that it does not meet minimum safety standards. If a defective product injured you and the manufacturer announced a recall after the fact, your lawyer will argue that the company is clearly liable for your injuries.

However, once a company issues a recall, it is shifting some of the responsibility to the car’s owner. If the owner did not promptly get their vehicle repaired, they may be at least partly at fault for your injuries. To identify exactly who is financially responsible, your lawyer will investigate:

  • When the owner received notification of the recall
  • Whether the recall notice sufficiently warned them of their vehicle’s dangers
  • Whether they tried to comply with the recall

RELATED: Don’t Miss Out on Product Liability Compensation After a Car Wreck

For example, suppose you get a notice about your vehicle’s ignition switch. While the car is safe to drive under certain circumstances, the notice warns you that your engine could suddenly shut off while in motion. Rather than scheduling a service appointment, you continue to drive the car for three months.

While on the highway, your engine suddenly shuts off, causing a multi-car pileup. In this case, the manufacturer may argue that the crash was partially your fault because you opted not to repair the switch.

On the other hand, if you got a recall notice and suffer a defect-related crash within days, you may argue that you were unable to get your car in for repairs that quickly.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Rights During a Recall?

If a manufacturer issues a recall for your vehicle:

  • Read the recall notice carefully. If it tells you not to use your car until it’s properly repaired, follow these instructions. If you have questions about the recall, call your dealership or the manufacturer’s recall hotline.
  • Make sure to schedule the repair with an authorized dealer. It should not charge you for recall-related repairs.
  • Take the first available appointment. Even if the dealership is busy and you have to wait weeks, this will show that you tried to follow the recall notice.
  • If an authorized dealer refuses to do the repair or tries to charge you for it, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • After a crash, do not dispose of the defective car parts. To prove your product liability claim, your lawyer’s expert witnesses will need to examine and test them. If someone else’s defective vehicle caused the crash, your lawyer will need to act quickly to retain the parts.

For more information about the recall process and currently recalled vehicles, visit the NHTSA’s Keeping You Safe recall page.

Crosley Law: Product Liability Attorneys in San Antonio Texas

At Crosley Law, our attorneys investigate car and truck crashes, determining their cause and the responsible parties. If you or a loved one suffered life-changing injuries from a defective part or vehicle, our product liability attorneys may be able to help.

Contact us today by calling 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or completing this brief online contact form to learn more about your rights and options in a product liability case that involves a recall.


All recalls by year. (2019). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/2018_recall_annual_report_updated_041219.pdf

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (February 2015). Critical reasons for crashes investigated in the national motor vehicle crash causation survey. Washington, DC. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/812115

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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