Actor Anton Yelchin who played Ensign Pavel Chekov in the most recent Star Trek movies died at age 27 in his Los Angeles home after his recalled Jeep SUV rolled down the driveway and pinned him. According to a Tribune News Service report, the fatal accident involved Yelchin’s 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was part of a global recall of 1.1 million vehicles. Fiat Chrysler issued the recall in April for defective gear shifters that have confused drivers, causing the vehicles to roll away unexpectedly. Yelchin died on June 19, 2016 after the SUV rolled unexpectedly and pinned him against a mailbox pillar and security fence at his home.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Yelchin’s family. Messages of sympathy and praise for Yelchin’s talent and brilliant mind are pouring in merely a day after his untimely and tragic death. His family will be in our thoughts and prayers.
Even as Hollywood is mourning the loss of one of its budding stars, officials are looking into the cause of the accident. The Jeep SUV recall was urged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after it received complaints from drivers who had trouble telling if they had put the automatic transmissions in park. If they were not in park and a driver left the vehicle, it could roll away. Fiat Chrysler at the time said that it was going to notify vehicle owners about the auto defect on May 16. However, it is not known at this time if Yelchin got the recall notice or saw it. Even if he’d seen it, the fix is not available until October or later, according to Fiat Chrysler.
Investigators are now looking into the position of Yelchin’s gear shift at the time of the accident. According to news reports, the actor had gotten out of the vehicle momentarily. Fiat Chrysler also said today that it is involved in the investigation. NHTSA got 121 reports of crashes related to this gearshift problem and as of April knew about 41 related injuries.
Potential Wrongful Death Claim
It appears that investigators are still looking into whether the product defect in this recalled SUV had anything to do with this fatal rollaway accident. In such cases, it would be in the best interests of victims’ families to retain the services of a renowned product defect law firm that has successfully handled similar cases. It’s important to remember that not all auto defect law firms have the knowledge base, the will or the resources to conduct independent vehicle testing.
To begin with, Fiat Chrysler delayed issuing the recall. They only did so in April at the urging of NHTSA. Even though they sent out letters to vehicle owners in mid-May, it’s not clear if all owners received or saw the letter. And even if they did, they could do little about it because the fix wasn’t available until October. This is exactly how automakers put consumers in a dangerous position with defective automobiles. Yelchin’s family may have a potential wrongful death claim here against Fiat Chrysler. But it is important they preserve the vehicle unaltered so an expert can thoroughly examine it for any evidence of defects and malfunctions. Law enforcement agencies often lack the resources and the knowledge necessary to investigate product defect cases, which is why it is crucial that victims or their families reach out to an experienced auto defect lawyer as soon as possible.