A pregnant mother died on Monday, June 5th after her own minivan ran her over. The incident occurred in the parking lot of Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, Washington. According to investigators, the minivan was parked and the woman was standing near it when her 6-year-old son accidentally put the vehicle in gear.
Emergency responders rushed to the scene at the 2500 block of Chambers Creek Road. They found the woman alive with serious injuries. Firefighters lifted the minivan off the woman, but she died while en route to the hospital.
Doctors performed an emergency C-section on the woman, who was eight months pregnant when she passed away. They were able to save the baby, who is now under care at Seattle Children’s Hospital. According to reports, other children were inside the vehicle, and they were not injured.
Safety Concerns After A Roll-Away Death
In many cases involving a roll-away vehicle, investigators find that the situation was tragic but no one can be held liable. Sometimes, however, an investigation uncovers a problem with the design of a vehicle that contributed to the accident.
In 2016, actor Anton Yelchin was pinned to a brick mailbox by his own Jeep Grand Cherokee, which had rolled down his driveway. Yelchin died as a result of the severe injuries he suffered after being crushed by the Jeep. Investigators found that the gear shift on the Jeep Grand Cherokee model had a confusing design that made it too easy to accidentally select the wrong gear. Numerous complaints about the poorly designed gear shift had been recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fiat Chrysler ended up issuing a recall for the dangerous Jeep models, but did not have an immediate fix for the design flaw.
Jeep isn’t the only company to have issues with roll-away accidents caused by a design flaw. In 2013, Toyota recalled 615,000 of its Sienna model minivans due to gearshift lever issues. The recall was issued for all models in the 2004-2005 and 2007-2009 years. The design flaw was in the shift lever assembly; investigators found that it was possible for these gear shift levers to move out of the parked position without the driver’s foot being on the brake. 21 accidents were reported, two of which involved injures.
In April 2017, Ford issued a recall for 53,000 trucks with a roll-away problem. The company’s 2017 F-250 trucks suffered from a manufacturing error that could cause the vehicles to roll away while parked. Ford offered to replace the defective part for free, but replacement parts were not immediately available. Owners were advised to use the parking brake every time they parked until their vehicles could be fixed.
In 2012, Honda discovered that 807,000 of its minivans and sports utility vehicles suffered from roll-away problems due to an issue with the ignition interlock. Their recall involved 2003 and 2004 model year Odyssey minivans, 2003 and 2004 model year Pilot SUVs, and 2003 through 2006 model year Acura MDX SUVs. One report of a crash involving the design flaw was reported to the company.
(Image: A 2004 model Toyota Sienna minivan rolling of the assembly line at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant. This vehicle was one of hundreds of thousands recalled after investigators found a product defect that could cause roll-away accidents. Image source: Reuters)
What To Do When A Defective Vehicle Causes A Crash
Cases involving product defects can be extremely difficult for victims to navigate on their own. In too many cases, a serious injury or death may occur before safety officials and company representatives are even aware that a product defect exists. A major design flaw may not even be discovered until investigators look into the circumstances of an accident.
If you have any questions about personal injury cases involving defective vehicles, a product liability attorney can help you. Experienced personal injury attorneys know which questions to ask after a serious injury or death involving a defective vehicle. They can hire experts, look for similar cases, collect information from witnesses, and deal with insurance adjusters on your behalf. If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that could have been caused by a product defect, you can get in touch with our legal team at any time by using our convenient chat feature, visiting our contact form, or calling (206) 727-4000.