German automaker Daimler will pay $13 million in civil penalties to settle an investigation conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into how the automaker conducted its recalls. According to various reports, the federal agency opened an investigation into Mercedes-Benz USA last year to learn more about how it handled various recalls.
Company’s Actions Under Scrutiny
The probe came as the company’s actions surrounding recall reporting and execution came under scrutiny. Specifically, NHTSA said it failed to notify owners in a timely manner and did not act promptly to start two specific recalls. The agency also said the settlement would address concerns about the automaker’s VIN lookup tool for owners to check and see if their vehicle has an open recall.
NHTSA officials said these laws are important to ensure the agency’s ability to provide critical oversight. The automaker will pay $13 million upfront with another $7 million fine deferred for now. The additional fee will activate if the automaker does not meet specific conditions Mercedes-Benz will also need to meet with NHTSA once per quarter to discuss its recall operations for one year.
Why Are Vehicles Recalled?
An auto recall occurs when an automaker or the NHTSA determine that a car model or several models have a safety-related defect or fails to comply with a federal safety standard. When this occurs, the automaker will alert owners to the problem and offer a free repair. A recall doesn’t mean that the entire vehicle will be replaced. Typically, the dealership will fix the defective part or offer a repair for a defective charge. The law requires that automakers provide these recall repairs at no charge to consumers.
Automakers are required to send letters to consumers who are affected by a recall. You can also stay up to date on recalls by visiting NHTSA’s website. You can find out if your vehicle has been affected by entering your vehicle identification number of VIN. A recall letter will contain information including a description of the defect; the risk posed by the problem including the types of injuries it can cause; potential warning signs; what the fix for the problem is; and instructions regarding what next steps vehicle owners should take.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective auto or defective vehicle part, you may be able file an auto product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective vehicle and/or part. An experienced auto defect lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.