When a car manufacturer (or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA) notices a safety defect in a particular vehicle, it notifies the owners and provides them with information on remedial measures. Unfortunately, such measures may occur after some of the cars have already been involved in an accident for reasons related to the defect. If you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a car accident that you believe was caused by a defect in the vehicle, it's highly likely you will be interested in using the evidence of the vehicle recall while pursuing your accident case. Here are three things you should know about using such evidence:
It's Not an Automatic Defense
The fact that the manufacturer issued a recall before you were injured doesn't mean it is off the hook. There are two things the manufacturer has to prove first:
- You directly received the recall notice.
- The notice was clear on the defects and explained how to remedy the danger.
Therefore, a newspaper advertisement of a recall may not suffice because you may not have read the paper. In fact, the manufacturer cannot hide behind its dealerships; it is responsible for ensuring all its clients with the affected cars receive the notice. By law, manufacturers are required to use first-class mail when sending the notifications.
It Will Not Be Automatically Admitted as Evidence
Just because your car was on the list of recalled vehicles, it doesn't mean that the notice will automatically be admitted as evidence. There are several grounds the defense may use to have the evidence declared inadmissible. For example, it may argue that the evidence is irrelevant if the defect is not related to your injury. The defendant may also argue that the issue of the recall may prejudice the jury and make it rule against the defendant. Some courts have used this reasoning to declare evidence of recall inadmissible in product defect trials.
It's Not an Automatic Proof of Liability
Just like a recall doesn't constitute an automatic defense, it's not an automatic proof of liability either. You can't go to the court and expect compensation by using a recall notice to prove the manufacturer was negligent. In states that allow the use of evidence of a recall, the only thing the recall can help you with is to prove the car was defective. After that, you still need to prove the particular defect (as outlined in the recall) caused your injury.
A recall isn't an automatic proof of liability because not every accident involving recalled vehicles are caused by the defects. For example, it may be that the car had defective brakes, but it was your drunkenness that caused the crash because you did not even try to use the brakes.
Whatever your situation, contact a personal injury attorney from a firm like Leen and Emery to get legal advice as soon as possible.