NHSTA orders Fiat Chrysler to pay record $105 million fine over auto recall problems

by Eric Pearson

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has entered into a consent order with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles which orders the vehicle manufacturer to pay a $105 million fine for repeatedly failing to properly execute numerous safety recalls that could lead to deadly accidents. The fine is the largest ever issued by the NHTSA, surpassing the $70 million fine levied against Honda in January.

The record $105 million fine against Chrysler follows an investigation by the NHTSA into 23 vehicle recalls issued by the automaker covering more than 11 million defective vehicles. These incidents included the recall of about half a million vehicles—mostly Dodge Ram pickup trucks—with suspension problems that could lead to a deadly crash, as well as more than a million Jeeps (Libertys and Cherokees) that are prone to deadly crash-impact fires.  Officials at the NTSHA called Chrysler’s effectiveness at carrying out the recall “woeful” given the deadly safety risks involved in these situations.

Regulators with the NHTSA said that Chrysler’s poor record in executing the nearly two dozen recall notices issued by the company was a violation of federal law in a number of areas. The agency stated that in addition to misleading and obstructing regulators investigating deaths linked to Fiat Chrysler vehicles, the company also performed inadequately in performing repairs to the recalled cars and failed to properly alert owners about the recall of their vehicles in a timely fashion.

In addition to the fine issued by the agency, the consent order provided for an independent monitor to audit Fiat Chrysler’s recall processes for up to four years. As part of the settlement with the NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler also agreed to offer cash to some vehicle owners in order to encourage them to take their cars to the dealership for repairs.

Chrysler is also being investigated by federal regulators for problems related to cybersecurity flaws with its vehicles. Investigators began looking in to cybersecurity issues with Chrysler autos following a case in which hackers were able to take control of a moving Jeep by hacking into its computer system. The cybersecurity investigation was not part of the recent settlement between Chrysler and the NHTSA.

Vehicle Crashworthiness and Your Legal Rights

Car and truck manufacturers like Fiat Chrysler and Honda know that any vehicle they sell could be involved in an accident. Because of this, carmakers have a duty to make sure they design vehicles that are safe under all reasonably foreseeable uses, including a duty to design a vehicle that is reasonably safe when a collision occurs. The extent to which a car or truck has been designed and manufactured to protect the occupants of the vehicle in the event of an accident is known as “vehicle crashworthiness”.

Crashworthiness may include several aspects of a vehicle’s design and manufacture, including seat belts, crumple zones, airbags, or other safety features. Lawsuits filed over the crashworthiness of an automobile focus on whether or not the vehicle’s manufacturer is responsible for injuries that occurred during a crash because the injuries may have been caused or made worse by problems with the car or truck.

In order to determine whether you may be eligible to file a case against an automaker for injuries due to the crashworthiness of your vehicle, you need to retain experienced, qualified legal counsel. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the experience and knowledge to pursue a vehicle crashworthiness lawsuit against any major manufacturer. Our law firm has the financial resources to handle even the most complex crashworthiness case from beginning to end, and is ready and willing to take a case all the way to trial if that’s what it takes to force the auto companies and their insurers to take responsibility for their actions.

For a free legal consultation about your case and to determine whether you may be eligible to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to learn more about your legal rights. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free legal consultation form and answering a few simple questions about your case.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.