Imagine you come to a slow stop at a traffic light, when out of nowhere, the headrest behind you smacks into the back of your head, sounding like gunfire. Or, you have just parked your car and are gathering your belongings when the headrest explodes, hitting the side of your head, leaving you with a headache, or even worse, a concussion.
Since 2010, active head restraint (AHR) system headrests have been installed on Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles. The problem is that some headrests randomly deploy and are causing injuries to driver and passenger heads, faces, and necks. The Richmond product liability attorneys at Phelan Petty discuss this safety issue and recall in today’s blog.
AHR is a safety feature designed to protect drivers and passengers from whiplash injuries that may occur during a rear impact crash. Like an airbag, the headrests pop open to provide additional support for the head and reduce the whiplash effect on the head and neck.
Unfortunately, this component is literally backfiring. The headrests in these vehicles have been randomly deploying or bursting open and hitting drivers and passengers, causing headaches, concussions, and other face, neck, and head injuries all over the country. In addition to injuries, the sudden explosion of the headrests can be extremely distracting to drivers, increasing risk for car accidents.
List of vehicles with possible defective AHRs
Vehicle models involved in these class action suits includes:
|· 2010-2018 Dodge Journey |
· 2010-2011 Dodge Nitro
· 2010-2012 Jeep Liberty
· 2010-2017 Jeep Patriot or Compass
· 2010-2012 Dodge Caliber
· 2010-2018 Dodge Caravan
· 2011-2018 Dodge Ram C/V
|· 2011-2018 Dodge Durango |
· 2011-2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee
· 2010-2018 Chrysler Sebring/Avenger
· 2011-2018 Chrysler Town & Country
· 2011-2018 Chrysler 200
· 2011-2018 Chrysler 300
If you own any of the vehicles listed above and want additional information regarding the defect, and any recalls that may be pending, check the NHTSA website for recall information and/or contact your automobile dealer.
Recall information for defective headrests
The Chrysler Group LLC issued a safety recall back in 2013 for AHR-equipped vehicles. About 500,000 vehicles were recalled. The problem was thought to be with a microcontroller, but this did not fix the issue. AHR continued to be installed and headrests continued to burst haphazardly. To this date, the problem has not been corrected, and there are hundreds of thousands of vehicles currently out on the road with this defect.
The NHTSA began investigating the bursting headrests in 2019. The “Active Headrest Inadvertent Deployment” investigation reviewed complaints regarding safety issues with Jeep and Dodge. NBC reports that there were close to 500 complaints of faulty headrests, and at least 70 of those incidents resulted in some sort of injury, including disorientation, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Manufacturers are required to send recall notices when the NHTSA determines a vehicle poses a safety risk due to a defect. If you are notified about a recall, the notice will include details about the defect, risks due to the defect, possible warning signs, how the manufacturer plans to fix the problem, and instructions on what to do next. Usually, you would contact your authorized dealer and set up an appointment for a repair. Repairs due to defects and recalls should be free of charge.
However, each situation is different; complaints regarding the defective headrests have mentioned an $800 – $1000 repair cost. According to Cars.com, manufacturers historically recall about 10 to 20 million cars each year, but that number has risen in recent years. Statista.com reports that, in 2019, 39 million vehicles and 14 million motor vehicle parts were removed from U.S. roads due to recalls. The NHTSA lists recalls here; Kelly Blue Book (KBB) lists recalls here; and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) lists recalls here.
Lawsuits allege defective headrests and an active coverup
Class action suits have been filed in states like Florida, California, and Massachusetts to address this hazardous flaw. A plastic bracket manufactured by Grammer AG is being blamed for the random popping of the headrests. The theory is that the inexpensive plastic used to make this component cannot handle the pressure of the restraint system, which causes the random popping or explosion of the head rest. Despite the investigations, the class action suits, and the numerous complaints, thousands of vehicles continue to drive with this faulty safety feature.
Many of the lawsuits, including the class action suit in Florida, claim that Grammer not only knew about the defect, but has gone out of its way to conceal it. From the complaint:
Plaintiff alleges that, since 2010, Grammer has been aware of this defect, but intentionally concealed it from Plaintiff and other vehicle owners. Plaintiff claims that, by concealing this defect, Grammer denied him and other vehicle owners the benefit of their bargains, because they paid more for their vehicles than they otherwise would have had the defect been disclosed. Plaintiff further claims that the defect cost him and other vehicle owners the time and money associated with bringing their vehicles in for diagnosis and repair, as well as the actual costs associated with diagnosing and repairing or replacing the defective AHR systems. Plaintiff also alleges that because Grammer has not addressed the defective design, when an AHR unit fails, it is merely replaced with another defective AHR, presenting a continuing safety risk to the vehicle owner. Moreover, plaintiff alleges, vehicle owners who pay out of pocket for an AHR replacement are denied the benefit of their bargain a second time, as they have now been forced to pay for a second defective component.
What should I do if I am injured in a car accident caused by defective headrests?
If you have sustained injuries due to a malfunctioning AHR, or because of any defective auto part, you can file a product liability lawsuit. To do this, speak with an injury attorney at Phelan Petty.
Product liability falls into two categories in Virginia: negligence and breach of warranty.
- In a negligence claim, you must prove that the company failed to exercise proper care in the design or manufacturing of the product.
- In a breach of warranty claim, you must show that the manufacturer breached the express warranty (the safety and product information provided by the company) or the implied warranty(the implied promise that the product is safe for use).
If you or someone you love in the Richmond area were injured or suffered serious harm because of a defective or recalled head restraint system, Phelan Petty may be able to help. Contact us today to get a free, no-risk assessment of your case from an experienced personal injury and product liability attorney. To schedule a free consultation in our Richmond office, please call 804-980-7100, or submit our contact form. We represent clients throughout Virginia.
Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.