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Ignoring Auto Recall Costs Lives

Ignoring a recall may have cost “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin his life.  Fiat Chrysler  recalled the 27-year old’s Jeep Grand Cherokee in April 2016.  He was crushed when it rolled backward down his driveway, pinning him against a brick mailbox.

In April 2016, Fiat Chrysler recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees made between 2014 and 2015, Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans made between 2012 and 2014 due to a defect in the vehicles’ gear shift.  The recall included more than one million vehicles.  Authorities have yet to reveal if the defect was a factor in Yelchin’s death.

But the defect makes the gear shift in Yelchin’s Jeep exceedingly difficult to operate.  Investigators suspect it failed, slipping out of the park position after he got out of the car.  Or, he could have been misled, thinking he had put the car in the park position.  According to one report, the Jeep’s “…electronic shift levers can spring back to their original position without the driver’s knowledge.   Drivers have to look at the vehicle’s indicator lights to tell if it is in the park position, instead of the gear shift.

Chrysler admits the issues are linked to 700 incidents overall, including 41 injuries, 212 crashes and 308 reports of property damage.”  Yelchin’s death would be the first fatality.

Drivers may be shrugging off recall notices.  Millions of cars have been recalled in recent years, turning the issue into a “ho-hum” matter for some.  According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2015 alone, more than 51 million cars were recalled, setting a record.  The newspaper deems the recalls an “historic surge,” noting that recalls in 2014 and 2015 “…surpass any annual total logged by federal regulators in nearly five decades.”

But Yelchin’s would not be the only death linked to defective auto parts if investigators discover his gear shift failed.  Thirteen people have been killed by exploding Takata airbags since the air bags were first recalled in 2008.  Jeeps built in 1998 are taking lives.  “Jeep drivers still dying in gas tank fires 18 months into recall,” reads a headline in a January 9, 2015 article in Automotive News.

Meanwhile government agencies are urging car owners to stay up to date on recalls in hopes of avoiding more injuries and fatalities . Safercar.gov, a National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) website lets car owners check recalls by VIN numbers.  It also features the latest information about all recalls.

Those injured in accidents involving recalled cars can get justice if they have been hurt.   Wayne Wright is one of the Top 100 Trial lawyers in America.  In the last eight years, his firm has earned more than $237 million for clients in the U.S.  He is a recipient of The Litigator Award – the rarest and most sought after legal honor in the United States.