Victor and Irina Yelchin, parents of actor Anton Yelchin, filed a wrongful death suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on August 2. The Yelchins alleged that Fiat Chrysler is to blame for the accident that led to their son’s death, according to Fox 11. Yelchin died on June 19, 2016 after his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backyard and pinned him against a security fence at his home in Studio City. His parents are accusing the company of knowing about a faulty gear shifting design that they think is responsible for the Grand Cherokee rolling away.
“This vehicle prior to Anton’s death had over 700 roll away incidents, over 200 crashes and dozens and dozens of people injured that they knew about,” said Gary Dordick, the Yelchins’ attorney.
Fiat Chrysler voluntarily recalled Yelchin’s vehicle along with around 1.1 million select Jeep Grand Cherokees in the United States made between July 16, 2012 and December 22, 2015, but not in time to prevent the actor’s death.
“The safety recall was way too little and way too late,” Dordick said. “If you look at the recall letter, ‘Dear Anton Yelchin, your car is defective. It can roll away.’ They mailed that letter, 7 days after he died.”
According to Variety, Fiat Chrysler had identified 41 injuries that might have been linked to a design flaw that made it possible for electronic shifts to return to a previous gear after it had been moved. Also found were 212 collisions and more than 300 claims of property damage. These numbers reflect data before April 12 only.
But the automotive company said, “the vehicles involved in these events were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found.” The company claimed that the recall was, “to reduce the effect of potential driver error by enhancing warnings and transmission shift strategy.”
Reports of confusion regarding the Grand Cherokees’ gear shifter were made to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the car manufacturer prior to the recall, including almost 700 complaints received by NHTSA. Some people said they thought they had put the car in park but it had been in neutral. The vehicles rolled away after their drivers’ had gotten out, thinking they had left the car in neutral. This might have been what happened to Yelchin.
An L.A. County coroner ruled Yelchin’s cause of death “blunt traumatic asphyxia” and said that it seemed the actor had not properly put his Grand Cherokee in park. Despite the number of injuries and accidents potentially related to a gear shift flaw, Yelchin’s death remains the only known fatality.
Vehicle design flaws that make it past production often are not caught until after accidents occur. Anyone, even pedestrians, could be victims of these crashes. Even when an accident is not fatal, it could still leave someone incapacitated or otherwise unable to advocate for their medical needs and wishes.
A legal document assistant could create a medical directive outlining guidelines for someone’s medical treatment. This directive could also remove the burden from family members who might have to make hard choices for an injured loved one. For more information, contact CALDA today.