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An ignored recall notice can lead to serious or fatal car crash

Karns & Kerrison

Automaker recalls by GM, Toyota and Ford blanket news stories across the country and here in Rhode Island. Scrutiny of these recalls raised another issue requiring media attention -- vehicle owners who fail to get the recall work performed. Ignoring a recall notice could potentially lead to a serious or deadly car crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that as many as one-third of vehicle owners will ignore a recall notice. Research by Carfax indicates that at least one of every ten used vehicles for sale online is subject to a recall that has not been performed. Some of these recalls are for issues that could be potentially dangerous.

The NHTSA has a database listing each year's open recalls by the make and model of vehicle. By August, automakers are required to maintain a database of recalls by VIN number. At that time, the government's recall database will also be searchable by VIN.

It is the responsibility of every Rhode Island vehicle owner to keep his or her vehicle in good working order. This includes having any recall issues taken care of in a timely manner -- especially if the recall could lead to an accident. A recall on a vehicle may not release an owner from any liability if the owner knew about the issue and failed to have it fixed.

Vehicle owners owe a duty of care to their passengers and anyone else on the road. When that duty is ignored, and a car crash is the result, that vehicle owner and driver could be held civilly liable to his or her victims. If the injured -- or the family of someone who died -- prevails in proving to the court's satisfaction that someone was negligent and that negligence caused the accident, the court may award damages permissible by our state laws.

Source:, "Consumers Ignore Auto Recall Notices at Their Own Risk", Hal M. Bundrick, April 16, 2014


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