Chrysler Probe Expands

Two years ago NHTSA launched an investigation into whether an usual number of Chrysler vehicles caught fire after rear end collisions. Originally the focus was on 3 million Jeep Grand Cherokees. Now NHTSA has added an additional 2.1 million Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Liberty SUVs manufactured between 1993 and 2001.

Central to the investigation are concerns of the plastic rear mounted gas tank which may lead to higher incidence of fires. So far NHTSA has received reports of 15 deaths and 41 injuries related to this potential problem.

According to a government analysis, there is “a higher incidence of rear-impact, fatal fire crashes for the Jeep products.”

Chrysler officials downplay the issue, though David Dillon, Chrysler’s head of product investigations, acknowledged in an interview with the Detroit News that, “Grand Cherokee may have more of these events than their competitors.” But, on the whole, Dillon insisted, “Those vehicles essentially are performing the same as their peers.”

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Chrysler Product Defect Cases

When Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, individuals who has products claims against the manufacturer were barred from bringing their claim if it involved a product that was manufactured prior to the bankruptcy filing. This barred many people from recovering for their injuries. Now Chrysler has agreed to allow claims for products manufactured prior to the bankruptcy filing. However, they are only accepting claims that occurred Chrysler emerged form bankruptcy.

The automaker said it will now consider product-related lawsuits from consumers involved in accidents that occurred after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy protection in June that involve vehicles manufactured by the old company.

Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, said Chrysler had "responded to pressure from injured victims and consumer groups and we commend them for taking this important step to protect public safety."

Doroshow said that "while this decision is a victory for consumers, there are still hundreds of people who were injured before the bankruptcies by defective Chrysler and GM vehicles that still have no recourse because the companies continue to take no responsibility for pre-bankruptcy deaths and injuries."

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