A fatal automobile accident in Florida is being used in an ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into the possible fire danger of Jeep Grand Cherokees. According to the New York Times, the November Orlando-area accident involved a rear-end collision where the car struck from behind burst into flames. The driver was badly burned and pulled from the vehicle but a 24-year old passenger was unable to escape the vehicle and passed away. The NHTSA is investigating the possibility of an increased fire danger in Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured between 1993 and 2004.
The crash occurred on November 16th on Interstate 4 in Lake Mary, Fla. The 1997 Cherokee had slowed with traffic and was rear-ended at around 65 miles per hour by a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer, another large SUV. Two other vehicles were involved in the accident, and the Jeep caught on fire. WFTV provided photosof the scene showing the damage. The NHTSA has reported that it plans on inspecting the Jeep that was involved in that crash as part of their ongoing investigation. It is estimated by Experian Automotive that over 2 million of these vehicles are still on the road.
In October 2009, Ralph Nader’s nonprofit safety advocacy group, the Center for Auto Safety, filed a petition asking the NHTSA to investigate this specific model of Grand Cherokees. The organization cited design flaws that made the Jeeps more susceptible to rupture or gas leaks after being hit from behind in a crash. They argued that the risks presented by these Jeeps were worse than other competing vehicles at the time. In addition, according to the Detroit News, the NHTSA claims that 55 of the approximately 3,000 people that have been killed in accidents involving the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee model experienced fire as the crash’s “most harmful event.” Newer models do not face this same possible fire risk, as Jeep’s redesigned 2005 model moved the gas tank from behind the rear axle to ahead of the rear axle next to the bumper. Though Chrysler maintains that this change was not dictated by the possible fire hazard, it still mitigates any increased risk.
Automobiles that present increased fire risks during or after a crash pose a significant danger to the owners and occupants of these vehicles. Numerous vehicles in the past have been found to have serious fire problems, including the popular Ford Pinto and the Ford Crown Victoria. In addition, recent investigation into the Chevy Volt has possibly unearthed a fire danger in the popular hybrid as well. If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident due to a potential defect, you may have legal recourse. Contact a committed car accident lawyer to see if you could possibly recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.