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How to Report A Car Defect Or Auto Malfunction

An auto defect can have a significant impact on the safety of vehicle occupants. A design defect or manufacturing defect in a vehicle can result in a malfunction any time causing the driver to lose control of a vehicle.

A safety feature such as a seatbelt or airbag that malfunctions during a car accident can result in catastrophic injuries for vehicle occupants. This is why reporting a safety defect promptly is critical.

Auto Safety Recalls - Your Voice Matters

defective seatbeltConsumer complaints result in millions of vehicles and parts being recalled every year. According to statistics reported by the NHTSA, automakers initiated 632 recall campaigns in the United States in 2013 covering 22 million vehicles.

That number is up from 2012 when they issued 581 vehicle recalls covering 16.4 million vehicles. These numbers include heavy-duty trucks, motorcycle and buses.

The 18 largest automakers issued 184 recalls in 2013 covering 19.6 million vehicles, NHTSA reports.

Reporting an Auto Defect

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It has the authority to conduct auto defect investigations, to determine if a particular defect exists in a batch of vehicles and to administer safety recalls, if necessary.

There are three different ways in which consumers can report safety defects to NHTSA.

The first method is through NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Hotline by calling 1-888-327-4236 or 1-800-424-9393. The hotline also has Spanish-speaking representatives and offers a dedicated number, 1-800-424-9153, for use by persons with hearing impairments.

You can also report a defect online through the web site. When you get on the site select "File a Complaint" within the "Defects and Recalls" section on the home page.

The third method is to send a written complaint to the Office of Defects Investigation (NVS-210), 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590.

What Goes into Your Complaint

The online form is quite simple and requires you to complete the following information:

  • Model year of your vehicle
  • Make of the vehicle (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, etc.)
  • Model of the vehicle such as Camry, Flex, etc.
  • Component of the vehicle that is problematic such as airbag, tires, windshield wipers, etc.
  • The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. This is a unique, 17-digit number and letter combination that can be found both on your vehicle and the registration form

In addition to this information, the form will ask you to describe the circumstances under which the failure of the vehicle part occurred. You will also be asked to state how often the failure occurs and what its consequences were and if you performed any repairs or replacements to fix the problem.

If any vehicle occupants were injured or killed as a result of the defective vehicle, you should definitely state that in your complaint as well.

When you file an online vehicle complaint form, you will have to provide some contact information as well as some identifying information. NHTSA does not share personal information with the general public. All of your personal information will be removed before your complaint is made public.

Depending on the circumstances of your complaint, an NHTSA-ODI investigator may contact you, but it is not likely that you will be contacted unless they need additional information.

How Will Your Report Be Used?

Information you provide is entered into NHTSA's consumer complaint automated database, which is categorized according to vehicle make, model, model year, manufacturer and the affected part, assembly or system.

These reports are posted on NHTSA's web site after the consumer's personal information is removed. Your report will help not only NHTSA and automakers determine if a recall is warranted, but it will also provide motorists with valuable information about potential safety problems currently under review.

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) may or may not call you to verify information in your report.

The recall process can take months or even years to be completed. NHTSA's process usually involves four steps:

  • Screening: This step involves a preliminary review of consumer complaints and other information related to alleged defects to decide whether or not an investigation is needed.
  • Petition analysis: This involves analyzing any petitions calling for defect investigations and/or reviews of safety-related recalls.
  • Investigation: The actual investigation of the alleged safety defects, which includes an engineering analysis.
  • Recall management: Investigation of the effectiveness of safety recalls.

Protecting Your Rights

If you have been injured as the result of a defective vehicle or vehicle part, it is important that you file a complaint with NHTSA, but do not wait until the complaint is resolved to take action.

Contact an experienced auto products liability law firm that can independently investigate the vehicle defects with the help of nationally renowned experts. Not all law firms have the resources to conduct these investigations, which could be very costly.

At Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys we not only perform crash tests and thorough investigations into vehicle defects, but we also advance all costs so it will not cost you a dime unless you recover compensation.

If you win nothing, we charge you nothing. We also work on a contingent fee basis, which means you do not pay us any fees if you do not win an award or settlement.

Our law firm has a long and successful track record of fighting and winning against large automakers on behalf of injured consumers and their families.

Please contact us at 949-203-3814 to discuss your vehicle defect case in complete confidentiality at absolutely no cost.

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