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4-Year Old Killed in Cherokee Fuel Tank Explosion After Rear End Collision

Tragically, without the warning of recall or knowledge of a recall, in the last decade so many drivers have lost their lives as a result of manufacturer defects and poor design of their vehicles.  National media coverage has surged around the Takata Airbag recalls which we discussed in an earlier blog. The numbers are staggering with 24 million cars recalled since 2008, and six fatalities on record (not counting those that haven’t been reported).

Yet thus far, there has been little media attention paid to another potentially deadly  issue concerning Jeep drivers in older model vehicles.  But all that stands to change now in light of the April 2 verdict awarding a family a $150 million in a suit against Chrysler for the fiery gas tank explosion which resulted in the death of their four year-old son, Remington Walden.

Remington was riding in the back seat of their 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by his aunt, Emily Newsome.  She was waiting to turn left at a stop sign when another driver in a 1997 Dodge Dakota struck the SUV at high speed.  The impact caused the rear-situated gas tank to explode setting the vehicle a blaze trapping the four year old inside.

“The verdict caps a trial that renewed scrutiny of older sport-utility vehicles with fuel tanks that regulators spotlighted as vulnerable in rear-end collisions,” writes auto analyst, Mark Spector of the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the Bainbridge, Georgia jury deliberated after only two hours citing the automaker’s “reckless or wanton disregard for human life in the design or sale’ of the Jeep SUV and their negligence/failure in their duty to warn owners that the vehicle was hazardous.”

The Fiat Chrysler company fired back at the verdict expressing their disappointment and that it was clear from data reviewed by the federal regulators that the vehicle’s design didn’t pose “an unreasonable risk to vehicle motor safety.” This argument by Chrysler is unsettlingly ironic considering at the time of the crash, Chrysler was dodging federal safety regulators’ requests for a recall due to fires in SUVs, including the same model involved in the crash.

$120 million of the verdict was awarded for the value of the Walden’s life and another $30 million for his pain and suffering.  Though an appeal from Chrysler may be pending; the family is relieved that for now justice has been served- but only for a moment as the bitter sting of reality sets back in and they are reminded that the loss of their son can never be repaid.

Where Do I Check for Recalls

So what is a car owner to do nowadays?  Every time we turnaround, there is another recall.  In the United States we have an expectation of safety as consumers but we are learning quickly that we have to exercise due diligence in carefully selecting a vehicle by never trusting the dealership or previous owner’s word for it and investigating for ourselves.  Staying on top of constant recalls will help to ensure your  personal safety, the safety of our families and other drivers on the road, not to mention your peace of mind.

If you own an older model Jeep vehicle, particularly any manufactured between 1993 and 2007; or if you would like to see if your vehicle may be subject another potentially dangerous recall we encourage you to visit www.recalls.gov. At the website, you can enter your vehicles VIN number to access any pertinent recalls.

If you or someone you know has been injured or lost their life as a result of a defective vehicle or vehicle part, please contact us immediately.  We fight for you.  (615) 425-2500