As the dust settles in the media over Toyota’s recent trouble with “sticky” gas pedals, Chrysler and GM have now announced recalls of millions of cars. The more than 700,000 recalled Chrysler vehicles in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and other countries have potential problems that could be very dangerous, including doors prone to catching fire, brakes that might not work and sticky accelerators. GM’s 1.5 million recalled vehicles have a heated windshield washer system that can catch fire, a system that has already been recalled once in the last two years. As a St. Louis product liability lawyer, I’m glad that these automakers are acting more swiftly than Toyota did recently to handle safety problems with their vehicles. But these recalls are still worrisome: If the same problems keep showing up in different companies’ vehicles, how can consumers choose a vehicle that’s safe?
The recall of 25,334 2007 Chrysler Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber vehicles comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated five complaints of sticky gas pedals. The gas pedal assemblies were built by the same company — CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Indiana — that produced the 2.3 million pedal assemblies recalled by Toyota in late January. In the complaints about the pedals, drivers said that the pedals did not return to the idle position after drivers released them, and four drivers found parts from the assembly lying on the floor of the driver’s side of the vehicle. The NHTSA discovered that the pedals’ bearing housing was too large, and Chrysler said that this problem only existed in cars built between March 7 and May 19, 2006.
Chrysler told the NHTSA that it did not think the pedal problem was a safety defect since the vehicles have brake-override software. But in the wake of Toyota’s gas pedal problems, the NHTSA and two congressional panels continue to investigate whether the electronic system that controls the pedals is to blame for the defects, rather than the pedals themselves or the loose floor mats that had been blamed by Toyota and, more recently, Ford.
Along with faulty accelerators found in three different companies’ cars, vehicles from at least two different companies may pose fire risks as well. GM recalled 1.5 million Buicks, Cadillacs, Hummers, Chevrolets and Saturns because of an unfixable problem with a heated windshield washer system that had caused at least five fires. GM plans to disable the heating mechanism and give each owner $100 as compensation for the loss of the feature and, Center for Auto Safety executive director Clarence Ditlow suggests, to derail any potential class-action lawsuits over the problem. Chrysler is recalling Chrysler Town and Country minivans and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans for their own fire risks from short circuits in the electrical system operating the sliding door latch.
After Toyota’s heavily publicized problems, many consumers thought they were being smart by choosing American cars that didn’t have the same sticky pedal problems that Toyotas did. Now it seems harder to tell which cars are safe. A few months ago, I wrote about the ways in which liability lawsuits forced auto makers to make safer cars. As a Missouri automotive defect attorney, I help drivers who expected that their cars would be safe, but who got hurt because the cars had defects that they couldn’t have known about. Drivers who get hurt because of flaws in their vehicle’s design can work with an experienced product liability attorney to determine whether the automaker is liable. If so, drivers can sue the auto maker to pay for their medical costs, lost past and future wages, and pain and suffering. It’s important to speak with a lawyer right away if you’re in this situation, as there are time limits on lawsuits, and if you wait too long, you may not be able to sue.
If you have been hurt in an automobile accident and suspect that the vehicle’s design may have contributed to your injuries, the southern Illinois vehicle defect attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe can help. Please call us for a free consultation, toll-free, at 1-877-678-3400 or contact us through our website.