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Defective Tire Recalls

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was originally enacted in 1966. It gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the authority to issue vehicle safety standards. The NHTSA also has the authority to require manufacturers to recall vehicles and component parts that have safety defects or that do not meet national safety standards. According to the NHTSA, between 1966 and the present, approximately 390 million cars, trucks, busses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds have been recalled to correct safety defects. Roughly 46 million tires, 66 million pieces of motor vehicle equipment and 42 million child safety seats have also been recalled because of safety defects in the same period.

Manufacturers voluntarily initiate many of these safety-related recalls. Other recalls are influenced by NHTSA investigations or ordered by the NHTSA through the courts. If a safety defect is discovered in a vehicle or vehicle part, the manufacturer must notify the NHTSA as well as all owners, dealers and distributors. The manufacturer is then required to remedy the problem, through repair or replacement, at no charge to the owner. The NHTSA will monitor the recall campaign to ensure that the necessary corrective actions have been completed.

The federal law requires that tire manufacturers repair or replace tires purchased within five years of the defect or noncompliance determination. As with other safety-related recalls, this repair or replacement must be done at no cost to the consumer.

To obtain the free repair or replacement of the recalled tires, consumers must bring the tires back to the dealer within 60 days of receiving the recall notification. If replacement tires are unavailable at the time they are returned to the dealer, consumers should get a written acknowledgment of that fact and keep it until they are notified by the dealer that more tires are in stock.

Repairing or replacing millions of defective tires can be extremely costly and, predictably, many manufacturers strongly resist or oppose product recalls. When considering a recall, tire companies often use a mathematical formula to determine what is in their best economic interest. They weigh the cost of the recall against the cost of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. To them, safety is often a matter of dollars and cents. Unfortunately, while they are making this decision, or fighting with the NHTSA or consumers over the necessity of a recall, people are being severely injured and killed on the road.

Vehicle and vehicle part recalls are necessary in two situations:

(1) When a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment (including tires) does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

(2) When there is a safety-related defect in the vehicle or equipment

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set minimum performance requirements for those parts of the vehicle that most affect its safe operation, such as brakes, tires and lighting. Minimum Performance Standards are also set for parts that are meant to protect drivers and passengers from death or serious injury in the event of a crash, including safety belts, child restraints, air bags, energy absorbing steering columns and motorcycle helmets. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards apply to all vehicles and component parts manufactured in the United States, or imported to the United States for sale, and certified for use on public highways and roads.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.” (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301).

The act defines a defect as “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.” A safety defect is defined as a problem that exists with a motor vehicle or component part that:

(1) Poses a risk to motor vehicle safety

(2) May exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture

Vehicle accidents that involve tire defects are complex. It’s essential to have attorneys on your side who have in-depth knowledge of the automotive industry as well as the various design and manufacturing defects that can cause tire failure. Your attorney should also have a strong record of success when dealing with the large corporations, automakers, tire companies and auto dealers.

The Brady Law Group has what it takes to succeed in complex and high-profile automotive products liability cases. If you would like to discuss the facts of your case with one of our experienced California trial lawyers, please contact our office by phone or email today.

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