What legal recourse do you have if you learn that the vehicle you own has a common defect that has resulted in serious injury or even death to operators of the same type of vehicle? Unless you have already had a problem with that vehicle, the unfortunate answer is nothing. It is not uncommon to hear that certain makes and models of vehicles already on the market have a defect. The realization that some part of a vehicle has a problem can sometimes trigger a recall where the vehicle manufacturer remedies the defect at no cost to the vehicle’s owner. These recalls can be voluntary or forced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But what happens when there hasn’t been a recall? If you want to fix the problem, be ready to pay for it yourself.
Lawyers across the country have attempted to bring lawsuits forcing vehicle manufacturers to remedy common defects before that defect injures or kills someone. These lawsuits typically fail as courts repeatedly conclude that these owners whose vehicles have not yet malfunctioned have not suffered a legally cognizable injury. In these courts view, as long as the vehicle is functioning properly an owner has not been damaged even though the threat of malfunction poses serious safety concerns. Even in the face of documented incidents of serious injury and even death resulting from a defect in a vehicle that is likely common to all vehicles of the same make and model, courts will not force the vehicle manufacturer to do anything until there is a problem.
These decisions put vehicle owners in the lose/lose situation of either paying to fix the vehicle themselves or waiting until they have a problem in order to get the manufacturer to fix it.