What You Need to Know About Safety-Related Automotive Recalls | The Law Offices of G Turner Howard III

By now, you’ve probably heard about what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) once called the “largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.” If not, don’t worry… because, in an effort to keep you and your loved ones safe on the roads, the G3 Help Me team is here to fill you in on all things road and recall related.

Since the late 1980’s, Takata Corporation, a multi-billion-dollar Japanese automotive parts company, has manufactured airbags (among other vehicle parts) for use in almost all big-name car brands, including Honda, Toyota, Ford, Subaru, Nissan, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Dodge/Ram, Mitsubishi, and more.

Today, Takata holds a significant percent of global market share in the automotive industry— even after the massive airbag recall that surrounded them, starting around 2013. A simple Google search today will tell you all you need to know about the Takata recall. But from there, you may be curious what to do if your vehicle made the long list of automobiles with potentially-defective airbags.

In this post, we’ll help ease the process by shedding light on why recalls happen and what you need to know in order to stay safe behind the wheel at all times.

When do recalls happen?

Automotive recalls are necessary when any part of your motor vehicle, excluding tires, doesn’t comply with federal safety standards. In addition, recalls also happen if a safety-related defect is found anywhere in your vehicle. Safety-related defects are extremely important to be aware of, as they typically involve parts of the automobile that were specially-designed to keep you safe.

What exactly is a “safety-related defect”?

There are many different types of safety-related defects that present in automobiles, including sticky or broken brakes, defective airbags that won’t deploy upon impact, defective airbags that deploy by mistake, defective seatbelts, faulty wiring, and more.

“Generally, a safety defect is defined as a problem that exists in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment that:

  • poses an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety, and
  • may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture” (source: NHTSA)

Many safety-related defects are easily noticeable on your vehicle, whether internal or external. However, it’s important to remember that not all defects are detected during average day to day driving. This is just one reason it’s critical to have your vehicle properly examined by technicians who know what they’re looking for on a regular basis.

Learning about a recall for the first time

If a recall that your vehicle is involved in is ordered, you’ll know fairly soon. It is required by law that any automotive manufacturer that is aware of a potential or existing defect notifies all registered vehicle owners right away. Typically, these vehicle owners will be notified via mail.

Upon notifying owners, the manufacturer is responsible for explaining the situation and circumstances regarding the recall. If the safety concerns are not clearly presented to said owner, fault falls on the manufacturer and legality issues may arise. In the event of a recall, know that the manufacturer will be able to reach you. For reasons like this, your states motor vehicle office holds meticulous records so that you can be easily and quickly reached in case of emergency.

What will they do with my recalled vehicle?

If your vehicle is in fact part of a safety-related recall, there are 3 options for corrective action that the manufacturer may choose to take:

  1. Repairing the defected part or entire vehicle
  2. Replacing the defected part or entire vehicle
  3. Providing a full monetary refund, minus depreciation

Which of the above options your manufacturer chooses depends on the severity of the recall, as well as your preference. Though it is not required that the manufacturer go with your preference, in some cases they may take it into consideration.

Taking extra steps to be safe on the road

If you have never received a formal letter from your vehicle’s manufacturer but think it may be involved in a recall anyways, there are steps you can take to ensure you and those you love remain safe on the road. In this situation, NHTSA recommends that you “call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or 800-424-9393, visit the NHTSA website at www.safercar.gov/vin or contact the manufacturer or your dealer” directly.

Above all else, the most important thing to remember is that your safety is our number one priority, and it should be yours, too! You deserve to get from point A to point B safely, and if you feel that your vehicle is unable to do that, it may be in your best interest to take one of the extra steps recommended above.

At G3 Help Me Law, we’ve seen far too many traffic accidents caused by safety defects that could have been avoided. If you or someone you love has been in an accident and doesn’t know where to turn next, give us a call at 865-658-4012. We provide free confidential consultations to anyone injured in an accident. Because you matter to us!

Disclaimer: Information found in this article was sourced from NHTSA’s online Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls guide via nhtsa.gov.


After spending his secondary years of study at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, G Turner Howard III earned his BA at Tulane University. A member of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, he received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Before becoming an attorney, he earned a Master’s and Doctor of Divinity at Andrews Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary. He also served as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army in Vietnam. With more than 20 years of experience, his firm has helped clients receive millions of dollars for personal injury, and in many cases, much faster than they ever expected.
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