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Easing Legal Burdens on Worried Car Owners

In an action limited to 20 states, including Minnesota, Kia will recall nearly 80,000 Sedona minivans from model years 2006 to 2012 due to a problem with the cars' steering wheel. When asked whether the carmaker would help owners in states not covered by the recall, a Kia spokesperson was silent.

Any time potentially hazardous automotive defects are discovered in a line of vehicles, owners are legally entitled to notification of the safety defect and a chance for a free fix (usually obtained through a recall). Safety recalls are governed by federal law. In this case, federal law applies as Kia is recalling the minivans because of a safety defect: the possibility that operators might lose control of the vehicle due to flaws in the steering column.

Are owners not covered out of luck? In the past and in the Kia case, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has supported geographic limitations on car recall notices. Even so, relief may be available. Worried owners can, first, check their car's warranty to see if no-cost repairs are available. Second, owners can and should report the defect and lack of the recall notice to NHTSA while confirming, at a minimum, whether a recall notification was issued but missed.

The best move is, of course, seeking advice from a personal injury lawyer. Cars are dangerous if not built adequately and personal injury lawyers are equipped to advise worried owners about their legal options. Paramount is how to best avoid a safety situation in the first place. A close second is how to avoid paying for required repairs when a defect is not of the owner's desire or making.

Source: NY Times, "Kia, Toyota and Porsche Issue Recalls", Christopher Jensen, November 22, 2013

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