What to Do if Your Vehicle is Included Under an Auto Safety Recall

The decision to purchase or lease a vehicle is a considerable one. Most consumers take some time to research the car that will best suit their needs and lifestyle. When we finally take the leap and sign the papers, we trust that the vehicle we drive home will operate smoothly and safely. Unfortunately, vehicles are vulnerable to manufacturing or assembly defects, just like any other product. Misshapen parts, incorrect assembly, or other errors made during the vehicle manufacturing process can lead to recurring and concerning issues that impact the car or truck’s transmission, engine performance, braking system, or other important functions. While some defects may only cause cosmetic damage (i.e., paint that chips easily, electronic systems that are confusing to navigate, etc.), other defects can jeopardize the overall safety of the vehicle and put the driver and passengers at an increased risk of injury or even death. When an auto manufacturer identifies a defect that affects cars or trucks of a specific make and model, it must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the issue. The NHTSA then launches an auto safety recall campaign to notify affected customers of the defect and provide them with instructions for repairing the faulty part.

If you have received a notice of a safety recall that affects your vehicle, there are several steps you can take to protect your safety and obtain the recommended repairs to make your vehicle safe again. While the process can be straightforward for some customers, others may need to enlist the guidance of a knowledgeable Berkeley lemon law attorney to help them understand their options and explore the potential remedies that may be available to them. Let’s take a closer look at the auto recall process and the steps you can take if you learn that your vehicle is included in a safety recall campaign.

Why Auto Recalls Happen

First, it’s helpful to understand why a manufacturer or the NHTSA would launch an auto safety recall campaign. These recalls are more common than many people realize; according to the NHTSA, there were 1,000 recalls for vehicles, car seats, tires, RVs, and other equipment in 2023 alone. More than 34 million vehicles in the United States were recalled in 2023, illustrating how widespread these issues are for consumers across the country. Although some recall campaigns are initiated by auto manufacturers, the NHTSA reports that most vehicle defects are initially discovered by consumers. When the owner experiences a recurring issue with their vehicle that eludes a clear explanation and does not respond to repeated attempts to fix it, the consumer can lodge a complaint with the public NHTSA database. Once the agency receives a considerable amount of similar complaints, the NHTSA may decide to conduct an investigation to uncover the underlying source of these recurring issues. If the manufacturer or the NHTSA investigation determines that a defect is present, an official recall campaign will be issued. Essentially, recalls are designed to protect consumers from safety threats behind the wheel and from the exorbitant costs associated with multiple unsuccessful attempts to repair the vehicle.

Remedies For Defective Vehicles

When the NHTSA launches an auto safety recall campaign, it will notify affected consumers by mail. The recall letter will tell customers that a defect has been identified and describe how the faulty component affects the vehicle’s performance and safety. The recall notice usually urges the consumer to visit their local dealership to obtain the recall repair, which should be provided to the customers at no cost. Once you receive the recall notice, you can call your local dealer and make an appointment to have the recommended recall repair performed on your vehicle. For many affected consumers, scheduling and obtaining the recall repair marks the end of this endeavor, enabling them to feel more confident and secure behind the wheel. However, a variety of recall repair issues can arise that create confusion for some customers. If you encounter an issue with obtaining a recall repair or your vehicle continues to struggle with recurring problems after receiving the recall repair, it’s best to discuss your options with a highly qualified Berkeley lemon law attorney who can help you identify the most strategic path forward. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be entitled to certain remedies, such as a replacement vehicle or a refund from the manufacturer.

Knowing Your Rights Under California Lemon Law

California recognizes that consumers have the right to trust that the products they purchase or lease are not defective in ways that threaten their safety. Under California lemon law, a consumer who purchases or leases a defective new vehicle or used vehicle that’s still under the manufacturer’s warranty may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or refund from the manufacturer. However, it’s important to understand that these remedies for defective vehicles apply only when certain criteria have been met. Below are the three basic guidelines that determine whether your defective vehicle may qualify for a refund or replacement.

The Vehicle is Under a Valid Manufacturer’s Warranty

To qualify for protection under California lemon law, you must be able to provide proof that your vehicle is still under a valid manufacturer’s warranty. This means that even used vehicles can qualify for protection as long as there is a manufacturer’s warranty in place that covers the car. However, there are some factors that may allow you to still qualify for lemon law protection if the warranty expires, so reach out to a trusted and friendly Berkeley defective vehicle lawyer to learn more.

The Defect Affects the Vehicle’s Safety, Use, or Value

Another eligibility requirement for pursuing a valid lemon law claim is demonstrating that the recurring defect impairs the vehicle’s safety, use, or value. In other words, if the defect causes the value of your car or truck to depreciate significantly or prevents you from relying on your vehicle to transport you to and from work every day, you may be entitled to specific remedies. Defects that threaten the vehicle’s safety are the most serious, so discuss your options with a trusted and friendly lemon law attorney.

A Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts Have Not Worked

To qualify for a replacement vehicle or refund, you must be able to show that a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made to fix the problem. Usually, a reasonable number of repair attempts means four or more unsuccessful attempts. However, if the defect poses a significant safety risk, you may be able to receive legal remedies after only two attempts to fix the problem.

If you have questions about your consumer rights under California lemon law, reach out to Lemon Law Partners, LLP, today by calling (510) 944-0336 to schedule a complimentary case review with a dedicated and friendly Berkeley attorney.

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