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“Everything is on the Table” for Fuel Tank Investigation

fuel tank

2013 Jeep Recall

In 2013, Chrysler issued a recall of approximately 1.56 million Jeep SUV vehicles due to fuel tanks that had a dangerous propensity to explode and/or result in vehicle fires.  The company recalled 1.56 million Jeep Libertys, model years 2002 through 2007 and Grand Cherokees, model years 1993 through 1998 because, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the fuel tanks in those vehicles can rupture if hit from the rear because the fuel tanks are placed behind the rear axles.  This rupturing can cause gas spillage, fires, and explosions. According to the NHTSA’s investigation, there have been:

  • 90 car fires
  • 75 deaths
  • And 58 injuries linked to the fuel tank of the vehicle

The recall was issued on June 21, 2013. The NHTSA stated that the consequence of the defect at issue was “[a] fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire.”  As part of the recall, Chrysler agreed to install trailer hitches to the backs of the subject vehicles in order to bolster protection for the gas tank. Chrysler agreed to repair the recalled vehicles free of charge.

Only 3% of Recalled Cars Fixed

In November 2014, NHTSA urged owners of these vehicles to contact local dealerships to receive the trailer hitch repair, stating that “Chrysler’s recall remedy addresses fuel tank ruptures and fires that can occur if the vehicle is struck from behind in a low to medium speed crash.”  The NHTSA also issued a letter to Fiat Chrysler expressing concerns about the company’s recall efforts as, to that date, “the company [had] remedied only approximately 3 percent of affected vehicles of a population of more than 1.5 million.”

Everything is on the Table

Now, almost two years after the recall, NHTSA is considering reopening its investigation into the Jeep fuel tank defect as the death and injury toll related to this dangerous product continues to mount. In April 2015, Mark Rosekind, chief of the NHTSA, told reporters that the trailer hitch repairs to the recalled vehicles “should be done faster, and we want to see that 100 percent.”  He further stated that “everything is on the table for us to look at,” indicating that the federal government would continue to monitor this situation and possibly take further action.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Tragedy

The NHTSA’s statements come on the heels of a $150 million verdict against Chrysler in a case in which a Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tank exploded after a rear-end collision.  Tragically, a four-year-old boy was in the back seat of the vehicle when it erupted in flamed.  The jury awarded $120 million to the family for the loss of the boy’s life and $30 million for pain and suffering.  The jury further found that Chrysler showed “reckless or wanton disregard for human life in the design or sale” of the Grand Cherokee’s gas tank. Chrysler has indicated that it was exploring whether to appeal the wrongful death verdict.

NHTSA Holds Public Hearing on Long Delays In Fixing Recalled Cars

On June 2, 2015, head of the NHTSA Mark Rosekind, held a public hearing to address the growing number of consumer complaints regarding the long delays to have their recalled cars  fixed.  Some consumers have reported waiting several months to have their defective cars serviced. One man claimed to have received a letter from his car dealership, saying he was eligible to receive the trailer hitch. He was informed after calling the dealer that the parts needed were not available and to check back. It’s been over a year since the letter and still no trailer hitch.

Have you been injured?

Ashcraft & Gerel is currently investigating personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from the faulty Jeep fuel tanks.  If you or someone you know has suffered an injury due to a car fuel tank explosion or fire, please contact us online or call us at 800-829-7037 for a free and confidential consultation.