Admittedly, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. In fact, I am so out of my realm when it comes to these types of movies/shows that I would consider both science fiction. When confirming this information, however, I found out that Star Wars is considered fantasy and Star Trek is considered sci-fi, and people have some very strong opinions on this subject matter. Even though I don’t consider myself a fan of this type of entertainment, I was devastated to hear of Anton Yelchin’s untimely death, potentially due to a design defect in his car, this past weekend.
Mr. Yelchin was a 27-year-old actor, best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the most recent Star Trek movies. While I am not familiar with his work, what struck a chord with me was the circumstances surrounding his death. On the night of June 19th, Mr. Yelchin put his 2015 Jeep Cherokee in neutral (but possibly thought it was in park, see below) and exited the vehicle while in his driveway; then in what is being considered a freak accident, the car rolled back and pinned him against a pillar and a security fence, causing blunt traumatic asphyxia, resulting in his death.
In April of this year, Fiat Chrysler filed a recall notice with federal safety regulators for 1.1 million cars and SUVs, including the 2015 Grand Cherokee. The recall involves a gear selector problem that caused confusion about whether the car was in park, causing “roll away” accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 117 crashes associated with this problem. At the time of Mr. Yelchin’s accident, car owners had not received an official recall notice, but notice warning about the problem was sent to owners in May. Fiat Chrysler plans to conduct a thorough investigation into the accident that killed Mr. Yelchin.
While it may be too soon to determine if the gear problem was the cause of Mr. Yelchin’s accident and ultimate death, injuries due to faulty car parts aren’t anything new. In September of last year, GM agreed to pay $900 million to settle claims involving an ignition-switch defect. This particular defect caused more than 120 deaths. In March of 2014, Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion settlement for claims involving unintended vehicle acceleration troubles, which caused multiple accidents and fatalities. In 1999, a jury awarded six plaintiffs $4.9 billion after they were severely burned when the fuel tank of their 1979 Chevrolet Malibu exploded in a rear-end collision. The jury reached the decision in this case because they felt that GM had known the car’s design was unsafe but had not changed it due to cost. And finally, one of the most popular lawsuits involving faulty car parts was against Ford Motor Company due to the faulty design of the Ford Pinto. The Pinto’s design increased the vulnerability of fuel leakage and fire in the event of a rear-end collision. More than 117 lawsuits were brought against Ford in connection with rear-end accidents in the Pinto.
Mr. Yelchin had a bright future in front of him. He was at the start of his career and seemed to be well-liked by all who knew him. What happened to Mr. Yelchin may have been just a freak accident or it could have been caused by the faulty design by Fiat Chrysler. Either way, it was obviously a situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I hope to never find myself injured at the hands of a car manufacturer due to a faulty design. If I do though, I know I have a lawyer I can trust on my side who will hold the company responsible and make sure I get the compensation I deserve. You too should feel confident knowing you will have a lawyer on your side if you find yourself or a loved one in a similar situation.
By: Tatum Tipton