Another victim has been claimed by exploding Jeep fuel tanks, the Daily Herald reports. A twenty-three-year-old driver from Detroit was killed when her Jeep Liberty was struck from behind by another car. The SUV reportedly rolled onto its side and burst into flames. Bystanders rushed to the scene but could not get to the woman because of the intense heat. When fire fighters arrived three minutes later, it was already too late. The driver was eight months pregnant when she died.
The woman’s 2003 Jeep Liberty was one of 2.7 million Jeep SUVs recalled by Chrysler in 2013. The recall, which is ongoing, covers Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 1993 through 2004 and Jeep Liberty models from 2002 through 2007. The federal government requested the after investigating several incidents of fuel tank explosions. The gas tanks, which are in an exposed position behind the Jeep’s rear axle, have been identified as dangerous and likely to rupture if the vehicle is struck from behind.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited 51 deaths caused by fiery crashes involving Jeeps with exposed fuel tanks. Despite the government’s urging, Chrysler initially resisted issuing a recall. Eventually the company gave in and agreed to install trailer hitches to cover the gas tanks of the recalled Jeeps. Two years later, only an estimated 12 percent of recalled units have received this fix. Jeep owners have reported difficulty receiving the remedy, with some consumers reporting that they were turned away at dealerships after being told that the fix is unnecessary.
According to reports, the Detroit woman had visited a local Jeep dealership to address the recall, and was informed that the dealership did not have the parts necessary to make the fix. Chrysler reportedly has issued a statement saying that it could not be held accountable because there was no proof that the driver requested the fix.
At least 840 other Jeep owners have complained that Chrysler dealerships were not equipped to provide the fix when asked. Clarence Ditlow, head of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, expressed frustration with how Chrysler has handled the recall: “The minimum amount that we’ve gotten to date has been dragging, kicking, and screaming, ” according to the Daily Herald. According to Ditlow, whose 2009 petition prompted NHTSA to investigate the Jeeps, there have been at least six deaths caused by Jeep fuel tank fires since the recall.
Chrysler continues to argue that its vehicles are safe, and that the exposed Jeep fuel tanks do not pose a risk to owners. The family is expected to file a lawsuit against Chrysler this year. At least one other Jeep fuel tank lawsuit has reached a verdict in recent weeks.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Jeep gas tank explosion, contact the attorneys at Lopez McHugh to receive a free legal consultation, and determine whether a Jeep fuel tank lawsuit is right for you.