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Was “Star Trek” Actor’s Death Caused by Defective Vehicle?

There has been a notable increase in the number of recalls issued by car manufacturers in recent years. Unfortunately, just because a recall is announced, that does not mean that defective vehicles are fixed right away. Even with strict oversight (and massive fines) from federal regulators, manufacturers continue to allow defective products on the road, which can lead to serious injury or death.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls Over One Million Vehicles Due to Gearshift Defect

On June 19 Anton Yelchin, a Russian-born actor best known for his role in the recent “Star Trek” feature films, died at his Los Angeles home in what was initially described as a “freak accident.” According to Variety, the Los Angeles County coroner’s officer determined that Yelchin “died of ‘blunt traumatic asphyxia’ after being pinned between a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence after his car, a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, rolled down his driveway.” The coroner said no foul play was suspected, and Los Angeles police continue to investigate Yelchin’s death as a traffic accident.

But there is also concern that the Jeep Cherokee itself was defective. Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which manufactures the Jeep line, issued a recall for certain 2014 and 2015 Cherokee models. According to a May 24 safety recall report filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fiat Chrysler said “some Jeep Cherokee vehicles equipped with a monostable shifter” have a software defect that may cause the vehicle to “roll away” even after the driver assumes the vehicle is parked: “Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged.”

Indeed, Yelchin had reportedly exited his vehicle just before it rolled over him. According to the New York Times, it was not clear whether Yelchin was aware of the recall or the safety defect. For their parts, Fiat Chrysler and the NHTSA are also looking into Yelchin’s death to confirm whether the safety defect caused the accident.

But even if Yelchin had been aware of a problem with his vehicle, Fiat Chrysler has yet to actually fix the problem. Previously, Fiat Chrysler said it would be able to correct all defective vehicles by this July, but more recently the company revised its timetable to the end of this year. In the interim, Fiat Chrysler has advised owners of recalled vehicles to simply stop using them.

Altogether, approximately 1.1 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles are affected by the recall. If investigators determine a defective Jeep was responsible for Yelchin’s death, he will be the first publicly known fatality arising from the defect, although Fiat Chrysler has confirmed 40 other people have suffered non-fatal injuries “related to the gear shift problem,” according to the Times.

Get Help From a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer

You should always take any notice of a safety recall seriously. Even a seemingly minor defect in a car or truck can lead to injury or even death. And if you have suffered injury or loss due to a defective vehicle, you should speak with an experienced Knoxville product liability attorney who can help you fight for compensation. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, if you need to speak with someone right away.

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