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When "safe" is dangerous

Safety is one of the top concerns among people buying used cars. You have probably come to rely on various seals of approval, such as the words "certified" and "inspected for safety" when considering previously owned cars for purchase. However, recent legal decisions may cause you to doubt the trustworthiness of those claims.

The Federal Trade Commission has decided that dealers can label used cars "safe" even if those cars have unrepaired recalls. As long as the dealer tells you there are open recalls on the vehicle, he or she can claim the car is safe and sell it as certified. You may end up purchasing a certified, safety-inspected vehicle that harbors a lethal defect of which your dealer is fully aware.

Is the FTC encouraging false advertising?

Many feel the answer to this question is yes. Dealers are expected to inform you of any defect, and you are required to sign papers saying you are aware of the danger. However, purchasing a dangerous car that a dealer rates as safe may be confusing to many customers. You may then drive the car off the lot with the risk that the unrepaired flaw could cause a catastrophic injury. Some common unrepaired recalls include the following:

  • Exploding airbags
  • Failing power steering systems
  • Disengaging brake cables
  • Combusting alternators

Some safety advocates are calling for the FTC to reverse its decision. However, dealers without manufacturer-authorized repair facilities, such as CarMax, are not able to clear open recalls even if they make the repairs. Others are stuck with trade-ins that were part of the recent massive airbag recall.

Restoring trust

While dealers are required to disclose the dangers to you before you make a purchase, there is no guarantee that they will, especially if the dealer believes you will not buy the car if you know about the dangers. If you or your loved one suffered an injury or worse because of an undisclosed recall on a used car, you have the right to seek legal counsel regarding possible compensation.

An attorney can examine your case and determine if the dealer or the manufacturer of the vehicle misled you by advertising the safety of a car with an open recall notice. If you are suffering with the repercussions of a serious injury or the loss of a loved one, compensation for your pain and grief may aid in your recovery.

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