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While most people understand that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plays a role in identifying auto defects and instituting recalls to help ensure these auto defects are adequately addressed, they may not have a real understanding of where the agency's recall power is derived from or even how the recall process actually works.    

In recognition of this fact, today's post will start taking a closer look at the NHTSA's power as it relates to safety recalls and motor vehicle defects.

Thanks to the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act back in 1966, the NHTSA is vested with the authority to 1) disseminate vehicle safety standards, and 2) order automakers to recall vehicles that either don't meet these vehicle safety standards or have some sort of safety-related defect.

Since being granted these regulatory powers, the NHTSA has overseen the recalls of hundreds of millions of vehicles, including 63.95 million in 2014 alone. While these recalls can be ordered by the NHTSA via the court system, the vast majority have been -- and still are -- voluntarily initiated by automakers or initiated by automakers after learning of discoveries made by agency investigators.

Indeed, automakers are legally required to alert the NHTSA, as well as dealers, distributors and, of course, consumers as soon as they learn of any safety defect. Furthermore, they must fix these safety defects free of charge. Failure to fulfill these obligations can expose the automaker to massive fines and even criminal charges.   

In our next post on this topic, we'll take a closer look at when exactly recalls must be initiated.

If you have suffered life-changing injuries or lost a loved one because of what you believe is an auto defect, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about the law and the options available to you. 

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