Recalled Vehicles Often Remain Unrepaired in Maine

By now, most motorists have undoubtedly heard about the grave risk posed by faulty airbags, defective ignition switches and unintended acceleration.

These issues and more were exposed within the last year by large auto manufacturers that later issued recalls compelling vehicle owners to have the problems fixed. In fact, there were a record number of vehicle-related recalls in 2014.

Companies have rightly come under fire for waiting too long to inform the public of the issues (in some cases, years), despite the very real risk of crash, injury and even death these defects pose. But the other problem is the low response rate for recalled vehicles. Part of it is lack of awareness. Part of it is there are no laws requiring owners or even dealerships to resolve safety recalls or inform buyers of problems prior to sale.

In all, our Portland car accident attorneys note approximately 60 million vehicles were recalled last year. A new study by Carfax, a firm that sells vehicle history reports, indicates about one-fifth of those cars and trucks were never fixed.  Government data indicates the number of recalled vehicles that go without repair is about one-fourth. These defects are potentially fatal.

One used-car specialist was quoted as saying that when these vehicles aren’t repaired, the problems compound over the years. It further increases the risk that parts will fail.

It’s unclear how many of these unheeded recalls result in crashes or injuries, but we do know there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest it occurs far more than it should. There was the 35-year-old father of two who died in Houston in January after shrapnel from his airbag cut into his neck following a minor accident. That airbag had been recalled in 2011. However, neither the prior two owners nor the independent dealer who sold the vehicle to decedent seven months earlier bothered to get the repair done.

It’s worth noting first of all, a recall notice does not absolve a manufacturer from a defective condition in a vehicle that results in injury or death. That company may still be liable. But in a situation like that, it’s also possible the firm that sold the car may be found civilly liable. That’s because even if there is no legal mandate requiring the dealership complete such repairs, one could reasonably argue the dealership owed a duty of care to its customers to be aware of the potential dangers posed by vehicles it sold and to either address those problems or warn consumers about them.

In years passed, legislators have tried to pass laws that would change the legal requirements and mandate vehicle sellers address recalls before those vehicles can be sold. However, those efforts have stalled every time amid fierce opposition from auto manufacturers, dealers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But a new push is underway. The government has taken away one the No. 1 excuse of these dealerships, which is that they had no way to check whether individual vehicles had undergone recall-related repairs. Now, there is a website that allows both dealership and drivers to scan for recalls by simply entering the vehicle identification number. Dealerships can even scan recall notices for numerous vehicles at once, in order to save time.

The measure being mulled by Congress would bar re-registration of vehicles that have outstanding recall work.

Still, the auto industry continues to oppose these measures.

In the meantime, the roads continue to be less safe as a result.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Ignoring vehicle recall notices puts us all at risk, March 15, 2015, By Rus Van Arsdale, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Seat Belt Law Faces Repeal, Raising Safety Concerns, March 15, 2015, Portland, ME Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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