It’s sad to think that an easily avoidable accident caused the untimely death of actor Anton Yelchin, known to “Star Trek” fans for his portrayal of Pavel Chekov in the new Star Trek movie series (actor Walter Koenig played Chekov in the original TV series).
Hopefully, his fame and popularity will help bring more public awareness to the serious and deadly consequences of auto makers allowing defective vehicles out onto American roads — and the fact that a car maker’s mail-out warning, much less its recall notice, in and of itself isn’t enough to prevent serious injuries and wrongful death.
In the incident that took the life of Anton Yelchin, there was no collision between two vehicles. There wasn’t any kind of speeding involved, or a sad story of driving under the influence of drugs or drink. No scandal here on the part of the driver.
In fact, the driver of a Fiat Chrysler product, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) wasn’t even behind the wheel at the time that the fatal accident occurred. According to news reports, Mr. Yelchin was at his home in Los Angeles, on foot, in his driveway. It was early on a Sunday morning.
Maybe he was on the way to check his mail – because he was found crushed into his mailbox by that Jeep.
It’s believed that the Grand Cherokee rolled down the driveway and pinned its owner between the heavy vehicle and his mailbox, killing him. One can only imagine how horrific this incident must have been for its victim.
How could this happen? It’s a problem that is known to Fiat Chrysler — this isn’t a shocking and surprising event for the auto manufacturer.
It seems that the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee was developed and sold with a stick shift or “gear selector” design that fails to let the driver know if the car is truly in “park” or if it is in “neutral.” (The Jeep Grand Cherokee that pinned Anton Yelchin in his driveway may well have been in “neutral” at the time of the accident, police are investigating.)
Fiat Chrysler History of Disrespecting Law Regarding Its Defective Product Dangers
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles manufacturers the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It makes and sells this product here in the United States and overseas. This car maker already has a known reputation of discounting defects in its products. In fact, Fiat Chrysler has already been shown to have failed to report the actual number of death and injury claims it has received that are tied to defects in its products. And it has mishandled recalls for several years now.
1. Last fall, Fiat Chrysler paid a record $105 Million as a civil penalty last year as well as agreeing to “submit to rigorous federal oversight” for 36 months after the car maker admitted that it was not handling product recalls as required under federal law. This case involved 23 recalls and over 11,000,000 product vehicles. It included the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
At that time, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said, “Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk. This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”
2. In December 2015, NHTSA fined Fiat Chrysler another $70 Million as a civil penalty for failing to follow federal law in reporting deaths and injuries caused by its products. Specifically, the fine was imposed upon the car company after its admission that for several years it had not given Early Warning Report data to NHTSA as required by the TREAD Act of 2000 regarding claims it had received from victims who had been hurt or killed by its products.
“Accurate, early-warning reporting is a legal requirement, and it’s also part of a manufacturer’s obligation to protect the safety of the traveling public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We need FCA and other automakers to move toward a stronger, more proactive safety culture, and when they fall short, we will continue to exercise our enforcement authority to set them on the right path.”
Fiat Chrysler Recall Notice: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
In April 2016, the car maker filed a recall notice with the federal government regarding this model of SUV. It reportedly notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that its product, of which there were over 1.1 Million already being driven on U.S. roads, was defective.
Fiat Chrysler was well aware that because of the flaw in its design, Jeep owners were unable to determine that the SUV was in “neutral” and not safely in “park” before getting out of their vehicle. In this April 2016 notice to the federal government, the car maker acknowledged 41 victims of the defect in accidents known to Fiat Chrysler at that point in time.
What did the automobile manufacturer call this problem in its notice? Fiat Chrysler described it as “shifter confusion.” That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
It’s reported now that over 100 accidents have been reported to NHTSA caused by this “shifter confusion.” Read the company’s press release here. Read the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) Preliminary Evaluation report here.
Jeep Owners’ Notification of the Danger: A Warning but No Fix Yet
If you own a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, don’t scratch your head wondering where that recall notice went. It has not been officially sent to you yet by Fiat Chrysler. The car maker does defend itself by a “warning” sent back in May 2016 to known owners of its product.
In that warning, Fiat Chrysler asked that the owners make sure that their SUV is in “park” before they leave the vehicle, and to be on the safe side, maybe they should use their parking brake, too.
When are recall notices going to be sent? Not until Fiat Chrysler gets the parts needed to do the repairs, according to its notice to the feds. Once the parts are in the Fiat Chrysler shops, then the car maker will send official recall notices out to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee owners.
Also included in this recall will be 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokees as well as 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans.
Defective Product Accident Victims: Personal Injury Claims Against the Car Maker
For those who drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee, or any other car that is subject to recall, they need to be aware of how serious these defects can be.
These flaws can cause accidents where the driver is hurt, or where passengers are injured, or where crashes happen and there are multiple victims involved who are seriously injured or killed.
As we warned back in February, there are so many vehicles being driven on Illinois and Indiana roads these days that are dangerous because of product defects that it is shocking and terrifying. See, “Dangerous Cars on Indiana and Illinois Roads: Used Cars and Rental Cars.”
What can we do to stay safe when so many vehicles are being driven with product defects today? What can we do if we are the victim of a defective product in a motor vehicle? More on that in our next post. Be careful out there!