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Was the Accident that Killed Star Trek Actor Due to an Auto Defect?

Actor Anton Yelchin, who played Ensign Chekov in three recent Star Trek films, may have died due to a defective auto part and a faulty recall system that keeps too many dangerous vehicles on the road. Mr. Yelchin, 27, died on Sunday, June 19, when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled forward down the steep driveway of his Los Angeles home, pinning him against a brick mailbox and a security fence. At fault may have been the car’s electronic gearshift mechanism, which had prompted a recall of 1.1 million vehicles but apparently had not attracted Mr. Yelchin’s attention.

The e-shift, new to 2014 vehicles, had come under criticism because the device made it difficult for a driver to discern whether the car was safely in park or still in neutral. Forty-one incidents resulting in injuries and property damage may have resulted from problems with the e-shift. The manufacturer, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV, issued a recall in April due to the danger of roll-away accidents. However, auto accidents like Mr. Yelchin’s are raising questions about the effectiveness of the recall system.

A system in need of fixing

Automotive recalls have a long legacy of problems. First, recalls are very expensive for manufacturers, which can lead to cost-benefit dithering in executive suites and boardrooms, delaying inevitable recalls and keeping dangerous vehicles on the road. Second, mailed notices of recalls are notoriously easy for car owners to overlook, so there’s a real question as to how many owners ever learn that their vehicle has been recalled. Third, after a recall is announced, owners still have the option to drive their cars until the company puts a fix in place. The automobile data company Carfax estimates that 27 percent of vehicles on the road today have been recalled but were never repaired.

Mr. Yelchin’s death is all the more tragic because it was entirely preventable. It is time for the automotive industry to put together a functional recall system that alerts car owners promptly and increases the repair rates of defective vehicles.

If you’ve suffered a serious injury due to a defective vehicle part, speak with a dedicated attorney at McMenamy Law LLC to learn more about your rights.