Lieff Cabraser represents persons with serious burn injuries and the families of loved ones who died, in auto accidents caused by the negligence of others or due to defectively manufactured vehicles, including fires and fuel tank explosions due to the alleged defective design of Jeep SUVs manufactured in the 1990s and 2000s.
Alleged Defect with Jeep Fuel Tanks | Jeep Fire Lawsuits
In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a safety investigation into Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs made between 1993 and 2004 and the Jeep Liberty manufactured between 2002 and 2007, consisting of a total of 2.7 million Jeeps.
Burn victims in lawsuits against Chrysler charge that older model Jeeps are defective and led to their injuries because the fuel tanks were made of plastic, located behind the rear axle and under the bumper, and lacked adequate shielding.
Jeep Accident Unnecessary Fire Deaths Continue
More than 75 people have been killed in fires involving older Jeeps with plastic fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle. Fiat Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, recalled 1.56 million of them in June 2013 under pressure from U.S. safety regulators. But only 12 percent of the SUVs have been repaired in the 18 months since the recall, a much slower pace than usual. As of 2021, accidents are still occurring with these vehicles, which due to their dangerous construction are prone to bursting into flame after otherwise non-lethal impacts.
The rear-mounted tanks have little structure to protect them if struck from behind, making them susceptible to punctures and fires. Moving the gas tank in front of the axle would be expensive and difficult. So Chrysler’s remedy involved installing trailer hitches on the rear of the Jeeps as an extra layer of protection.
A Jeep Fire Fix But Not For All Speeds
Government testing showed the hitches protected the tanks in crashes up to 40 mph when stationary Jeeps were hit from behind. But at higher speeds, they just don’t help.
Other Jeep owners have reported difficulties in getting the necessary repairs done. Since the recall was announced, more than 840 people complained to the government that Chrysler dealers didn’t have hitches available, according to an AP review of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database. Some complaints came as recently as December 2014 and January 2015.
As of January 14, 2015, Chrysler had repaired only 12 percent of the Jeeps — despite letters from NHTSA demanding faster action. That leaves more than 1.3 million Jeeps still on the road with gas tanks in a vulnerable position.
Reports of Jeep fires started in the late 1990s, but NHTSA didn’t start investigating until more than a decade later, in the summer of 2010. Three years later, the agency sought a recall of 2.7 million older-model Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys — some dating back to the 1993 model year — after finding 51 fire-related deaths. That number was later raised to 75.
According to a document submitted to regulators in 2012, Chrysler has faced more than 40 lawsuits and legal claims over the Jeeps, settling many out of court. A lawyer in one of the cases even warned NHTSA of the Jeep problem in a 2003 letter, after settling with Chrysler.
In the recall notice on the Jeep vehicles, Chrysler says there is a chance the fuel tank can leak in certain rear-end collisions. Further, it says, “Fuel leakage in the presence of an ignition source can result in a fire.”
Six people have died since the recall was announced.