Over the past several years, gas tank fires involving Jeep vehicles have been blamed for at least 270 fatalities and countless burn injuries. In response to these shocking statistics, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a probe into several different Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Liberty models. The problem appears to center around the rear-mounted placement of the plastic gas tanks used in the three models.
Free Jeep Fire Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been injured in a Jeep accident that was caused by a fuel fed fire, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the manufacturer of the vehicle and we can help.
What’s the problem?
The Jeeps involved in the NHTSA’s fire probe include approximately:
- 3 million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees
- 1.1 million 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees
- 975,000 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty
All of these vehicles have their fuel tanks installed behind the rear axle, which could make them more likely to burst into flames in the event of a rear-end collision. Fuel tanks in newer Jeeps are located ahead of the rear axle, a change that Chrysler Group LLC insists was made for design reasons, not because of safety concerns.
In 2010, the NHTSA launched a preliminary investigation into Jeep Grand Cherokee models produced between 1993 and 2004. Then in June 2012, the administration raised the level of the probe to an engineering analysis and expanded it to include Jeep Liberty and Cherokee models produced between 1993 and 2001. Through 2010, Jeep Grand Cherokees had been involved in crashes with fuel fed fires that led to at least 15 deaths and 46 injuries. Sadly, these statistics likely only represent the tip of the iceberg due to the fact that the numbers only account for reports taken by the NHTSA.
NHTSA initially launched its investigation after a consumer watchdog group called The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) claimed that the Grand Cherokee fuel tank storage system was defective and posed a hazard in a crash. CAS said the fuel tank arrangement was dangerous because it was located behind the rear axle, which increases the chance of leaks and fire after a crash.
In his 2009 petition to the NHTSA requesting an immediate nationwide Jeep recall, Clarence M. Ditlow, executive director of CAS stated, “The 1993-04 Grand Cherokee has a fatal crash fire occurrence rate that is about four times higher than SUVs made by other companies… Comparing the 1993-04 Grand Cherokee with the exposed rear fuel tank to the 2005 and later Grand Cherokee with the shielded fuel tank in front of rear axle in the first five years of use for both vehicles so that it’s an apples to apples comparison, the defective old Grand Cherokee has a fatal fire rate six times higher than the new Grand Cherokee.”
Chrysler recently acknowledged that it has settled numerous lawsuits involving Jeep fires without taking the cases to trial – while demanding plaintiffs sign confidentiality agreements. The company has insisted that this is not an improper practice. However, it is common for auto manufacturers to settle fatal injury cases on the condition that the case is “sealed,” thus protecting the company from bad publicity and making it impossible for consumers to know whether they are driving a vehicle with known safety hazards.
“The design is so bad that Chrysler frequently settles lawsuits without extensive discovery and subject to confidentiality agreements. A search of NHTSA’s FARS files for fatal fire crashes where there was a fire occurrence in a 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee from calendar year 1992 through 2008 found 172 fatal fire crashes with 254 fatalities,” the 2009 CAS petition alleged, noting that, by comparison, the infamous Ford Pinto – another ill-fated vehicle with a behind-the-axle fuel tank – was implicated in a total of only 26 fire deaths.
Do I Have a Jeep Fire Lawsuit?
The Products Liability & Automotive Crashworthiness Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Jeep fire lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new burn injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Free Jeep Fire Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been injured in a Jeep accident involving a fuel fed fire, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Jeep fire suit and we can help.