Lawsuits involving major auto manufacturers are not uncommon. For a variety of reasons, cars, trucks, and SUVs enter the stream of commerce with major defects. In some cases, it takes years to sort out what happened. In some cases, death tolls increase while the dispute remains in litigation for decades.
Recently, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has been targeted over the so-called death wobble in the 2015 to 2018 Jeep Wranglers. According to the lawsuit, the Wranglers built during that time period have a solid axle that can cause the steering wheel to shake at highway speeds. Here, we’ll take a look at this lawsuit and what it could mean for those who own Wranglers built between 2015 and 2018.
Is the “Death Wobble” a Safety Issue?
According to FCA, the so-called “death wobble” should not concern their customers. They maintain that any vehicle with a solid front axle can experience shaking at highway speeds. The lawsuit, however, maintains that the death wobble is a safety concern and that consumers should have been warned at the point of sale that this could happen.
The “death wobble” occurs because the front axle cannot absorb road shock and bumps as efficiently as a vehicle equipped with front suspension. The front suspension allows the two wheels to move independently of one another. The death wobble occurs when the Wrangler is shocked out of alignment, which causes a shaking of the front end components and, by extension, the steering wheel itself.
On the other hand, the Jeep Wrangler is one of a handful of “true SUVs” which are meant to accomplish what SUVs were originally designed for: Off-roading. Off-roading vehicles are typically designed with unique suspensions and the very things that make them great for off-roading make them less than great for highway driving.
Is it a Feature or a Bug?
The Jeep Wrangler is not the only vehicle designed with a solid axle. When Ford announced it was bringing back the Bronco, it also announced that the SUV would be designed with a solid axle. For decades, Jeep has dominated other auto companies when it comes to off-road vehicles. While there has been some movement by auto companies to offer their pickup trucks with off-roading features, Jeep’s Wrangler and related vehicles are still the go-to choice for consumers.
In fact, solid axles are a cornerstone of “true” SUVs and those who purchase SUVs, not as family vehicles but as off-roading vehicles, would expect that technology to be present.
Is There a Better Option Available?
If you have a vehicle designed with a solid front axle intentionally to accomplish its one goal of being a premier off-road vehicle and drivers who have no interest in off-roading purchase this vehicle as a primary vehicle, is Jeep responsible for their failure in judgment?
The answer would almost undoubtedly be no, especially in this case, since there have been no major injuries associated with the death wobble despite its scary name. Consumers, however, are claiming that they don’t feel safe driving the vehicle and that offers from FCA to fix the problem have amounted to a temporary patch.
In order for this lawsuit to gain traction, the consumers and their attorneys must be able to show that their problem is not simply a feature of all off-roading vehicles but a design flaw in their particular vehicles. In other words, there is something unique to the Jeep Wrangler’s design that makes it more susceptible to the death wobble than other similar vehicles designed with a solid front axle.
Complaints Filed with NHTSA
Complaints concerning the Wrangler and its death wobble have made their way all the way to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which is the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing consumer vehicles and safety concerns.
These complaints allege that if a Wrangler hits a bump at highway speeds, the steering column will begin violently vibrating. When this happens, drivers claim they are forced to slow down in order to stop the rattling from happening. Nonetheless, the problem resulted in nearly 200 complaints against the company.
The majority of these complaints address the death wobble, but other complaints allege that the steering becomes overly stiff or starts veering to one side. As of yet, however, the NHTSA has not issued an official ruling on whether or not the vehicles are safe.
Complaints Going Back to 1995
According to federal records, there have been complaints about Jeeps and wobbling going all the way back to 1995. While there have been no deaths related to the wobble, there are five instances of injuries. It remains difficult to separate the actual death wobble from one driver’s frantic reaction to it. However, if Jeep failed to disclose that their vehicles had a propensity to shake at highway speeds after a minor bump in the road, consumers would indeed be entitled to recover damages related to correcting the issue.
Jeep, on the other hand, maintains that the death wobble may indeed frighten those who are on the road, there are no instances of anyone losing control of their vehicle after their Jeep begins wobbling.
This Is a Case Worth Following
This is an interesting case to follow because you have an auto manufacturer which designed a vehicle toward a specific purpose and its design made it not a great option for driving on the highway. Anyone with a passing interest in off-roading would have already been aware of this fact. Nonetheless, the case can be made that Jeep owes it to its customers to make them aware that there is a potential issue at highway speeds. It also remains true that five injuries related to the non-disclosure of this fact are five too many—even if it is a feature and not a bug.
Car Accident Attorney Kennesaw
If you believe that a malfunction in your vehicle caused or exacerbated your injuries, the attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Talk to us today for a free consultation.