As automotive technology evolves, personal vehicles are growing more complex. With this added complexity comes a higher chance of serious errors going unnoticed until well after the vehicles are on the road. When a car manufacturer notices a serious design flaw that puts vehicle owners at risk, they issue recalls to have the defective cars returned. Recalls are more common today than ever before.

You may be wondering what you should do if your vehicle is recalled. Millions of people depend on their personal vehicles daily to get to and from work, drop off and pick up their kids at school, and various other daily activities. The thought of suddenly being without a vehicle and needing to secure a new one may seem daunting, but take the time to understand your rights and what to reasonably expect from your vehicle’s manufacturer, the retailer that sold it to you, and the government.

First Steps

How will you know your vehicle is being recalled? The manufacturer will mail notices to registered owners of the make and model in question. This notice will explain the reason behind the recall as well as their plan of action for handling it. Typically, this will entail one of three methods – repairs, replacements, or refunds. If your vehicle is less than 10 years old from the date of the original sale, the manufacturer is required to provide free repairs to fix the defect, replace the vehicle with an equivalent, or refund the purchase price minus depreciation.

  • The manufacturer will repair the defect. For smaller problems that are easy to fix, this is usually the route the manufacturer will take, and their notice will direct you to set up an appointment for service at your local dealer.
  • The defective part (or in some cases, the entire vehicle) will be replaced by the manufacturer free of charge.
  • The manufacturer will repay you for the purchase price of the vehicle minus the depreciation rate since the date of original sale. This usually only happens when a critical vehicle system is compromised, as parts manufacturer can simply replace the questionable part.

Know Your Legal Options

Recalls are meant to prevent injuries and property damage by addressing a dangerous defect before anyone is hurt. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. If you are injured in a car accident and later learn your vehicle had a defective element that contributed to your accident, you can file a lawsuit to claim damages.

Defective products that cause injuries to consumers fall under the purview of product liability law. Manufacturers are required to produce safe and effective products using consistent practices and material quality that perform as advertised. When a defect is found, the manufacturer must determine if the problem is due to manufacturing practices (defective production), a design flaw (defective design), or failure to warn/instruct. Manufacturers must provide clear instructions that outline proper use of their products, as well as warnings about any possible illness or injury that may result from use of the product.

Injuries from a defective vehicle can be extensive and the costs can extend far beyond medical bills. If you’ve been injured by a defective vehicle, you may be able to claim damages including:

  • Medical bills and the costs of any necessary ongoing treatments or rehabilitation
  • Lost wages from missed time from work
  • Property damage to your possessions in the vehicle
  • Pain and suffering for extensive injuries
  • Permanent or long-term disability resulting from the accident

If you believe a vehicle defect caused injury to you or a loved one in West Virginia, reach out to a trustworthy, experienced West Virginia product liability attorney as soon as you are able.