Actor’s Accidental Death Possibly Caused by Recalled Jeep

Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin

Star Trek fans are mourning the death of Anton Yelchin  who stars in the new Star Trek series. Yelchin died in a freak accident on the morning of June 19, 2016, at his Studio City home. Yelchin had parked and exited his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and proceeded to go behind the vehicle, when the Jeep suddenly and inexplicably rolled backwards, pinning Yelchin between a gate and the vehicle. By the time medics responded, Yelchin had died from internal injuries. He was 27 years old.  Yelchin, who can be seen in the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond,” was on his way to a rehearsal when the accident occurred. When he never showed up, his friends went to his house and found his body.

The year and model of Yelchin’s Jeep was recalled in April 2016, after 41 people suffered injuries due to issues with the electronic shift levers. It is believed that there more incidents that have gone unreported.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the alleged defect, since August 2015. So far, the agency has documented 314? rollaways, – 121 crashes, and 30 injuries.  Yelchin’s death may be related to this defect, and would be the first reported fatality caused by this issue.

In April 2016, Fiat Chrysler recalled more than one million full-sized cars and SUVs worldwide. The recall included 811,586 vehicles in the United States, more than 52,000 vehicles in Canada, 16,805 vehicles in Mexico and 248,667 vehicles outside of the United States. The recall includes 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs, Chrysler 300 sedans and Dodge Charger model years 2012 – 2014.

Why were the vehicles recalled?

Automatic transmissions used to be mechanical in nature, which made it easier to ensure that the gearshift was in the “park” position. Transmissions are now electronic, making it harder to know which gear is currently engaged.  This new technology confuses some drivers because they do not realize that the vehicle may not be in the park position, prior to exiting the vehicle.

The recalled vehicles feature alert messages and chimes, when the driver’s door is open with the engine not in park; however, these warnings and alerts are insufficient. With so many cars now equipped with interactive features, it is possible that drivers are desensitized to, and ignore, the multitude of alerts and chimes which accompany entering and exiting a vehicle. Safety advocates argue that the warning messages and alerts for such an important safety issue, need to me more pronounced, attention-grabbing, to differentiate them from the multitude of sounds emanating from the vehicle’s interface and speakers.

So what is Fiat Chrysler doing to fix the defect?

The company has announced that it will enhance the warnings, by developing new software that will, by default, place the transmission in the parked position, anytime the driver’s side door is open. This new software should be available by year’s end.

What Should I Do, If My Vehicle Has Been Recalled?

First, you will want to contact the Jeep dealership, where you purchased your vehicle, to find out if it is on the recall list. If your vehicle is part of the recall, you should also receive a mailed recall notice. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a recalled vehicle, contact the vehicle recall lawyers of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP for a free consultation.

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