While a failure to correct a defect in a recalled vehicle can call a driver’s negligence into question, there is no specific law forcing consumers to take responsibility for an accident caused by an outstanding recall. However, new legislation is in the works that could require motorists to make timely repairs on a recalled vehicle.

U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) have introduced legislation that can prevent vehicles from becoming registered if their owners have not repaired or replaced recalled parts. The bill forces states to notify owners about recalls and gives consumers a brief window of time to respond or face legal consequences

If successful, the new law could assign liability in a car accident to:

  • The automaker. Automakers are typically blamed when a defective part is installed in a vehicle. In many cases, federal regulators have fined manufacturers for millions of dollars if the automaker failed to warn consumers of the dangers in their vehicles. However, automakers may use the new legislation to share negligence with consumers who were warned of defects, but failed to take corrective action.
  • The owner. Reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that the response rate for repairs due to recalls is less than 70 percent. In a negligence case, the party in the wrong can be blamed if he knew or should have known that there was a problem that could have caused an accident. As long as the automaker has done due diligence to notify the consumer of the problem, it may argue that the owner of the car “should have known” about the recall, and it will be up to a court to determine liability.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.