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Chrysler Headrest Malfunction Lawsuits

Automobile safety standards have risen dramatically over the course of a lifetime. Most car manufacturers did not even install seatbelts before the 1950s. But today, technology is making cars safer than ever. However, carmakers have a responsibility to make sure that new technology functions properly and does not harm the drivers it is intended to protect.

Recently, a safety feature known as an Active Head Restraint (AHR) has malfunctioned by unexpectedly deploying in a number of cars manufactured by Chrysler, leaving drivers injured or financially responsible for repairs necessary to bring the car back to modern safety standards. Osborne & Francis recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Orlando woman whose passenger-side Active Head Restraint headrest deployed while driving. If you have been injured by or experienced a Chrysler headrest malfunction, contact Osborne and Francis today for a free consultation.

How Chrysler Active Head Restraint Headrests Work

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Active head restraints are designed to prevent one of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents, whiplash. Whiplash can occur when a car is impacted from the rear with enough force to cause the occupants’ heads to snap backwards almost instantly. This rapid snap often shifts the alignment of the vertebrae in the neck and can be painful, debilitating, and long lasting. To lessen the effects of whiplash, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration began requiring headrests on all cars in 1969. But a headrest alone isn’t 100% effective because a driver may not be making contact with the headrest at the time of impact.

Active head restraints are headrests that deploy upon impact much like an air bag. The forward-facing half of the headrests rapidly extends forward at impact, making contact with the driver or passenger’s head to reduce or eliminate the distance available for the head to snap backward. When functioning properly, this all occurs in the blink of an eye and can greatly reduce pain and suffering following a rear-end collision. But Chrysler active head restraint technology has a history of malfunctions and technical problems that have resulted in injuries to drivers who should have been protected.

History of Chrysler Head Rest Recalls

The current issue being faced by Chrysler isn’t the first time the company has experienced problems with their active head restraint headrests. In 2017, Chrysler recalled almost half a million vehicles over problems with their active restraint headrests. This recall was to replace an electronic sensor that had a high rate of failure. If the component failed, the active head restraint would fail to deploy upon rear impact, leaving the driver unprotected from whiplash. The Chrysler models included in the 2017 recall were the 2011-2012 Jeep Liberty SUVs, 2012-2013 Chrysler 200s, and 2012-2013 Dodge Avengers. The majority of these vehicles were sold in the United States, and if you own one, you should verify that the problem has been addressed in your vehicle. Use the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website (NHTSA) to search for your vehicle by VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and determine if it has any unresolved recall issues.

Types of Injuries & Damages Caused by Faulty Active Head Restraints

The current issue with the Chrysler active restraint headrest is that some have deployed without the car being impacted by another vehicle, startling or injuring the driver. The 2017 recall addressed a faulty component that prevented the head restraint from activating when needed, but it also now appears that a plastic bracket that keeps the headrest from deploying until needed is either poorly designed or made from inferior materials that are subject to failure.

The NHTSA has received more than 150 reports of spontaneous deployment of Active Head Restraints (AHRs). The headrests deploy with enough speed and force to leave the driver with a concussion, and there is no such thing as a minor concussion. Spontaneous deployments of AHRs can be accompanied by a loud bang. The noise, combined with the impact to the driver’s head, also has the potential to cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle if the deployment occurs while the vehicle is in motion. If you have experienced an unnecessary deployment of your Chrysler active restraint headrest, make sure you register a complaint with the NHTSA and contact Osborne & Francis to learn how we can help.

Financial Costs of a Defective AHR Headrest

Chrysler’s response to the issue has been to assert that spontaneous deployments of Active Head Restraint systems do not pose an “unreasonable risk of injury”. They continue that since there is no risk of injury, the spontaneous deployments of headrests cannot be considered a safety defect. Classifying the problem as a safety defect would make Chrysler financially responsible for correcting the flawed design on all vehicle that have AHR systems. This is clearly something Chrysler would like to avoid, and a reason that class action suits have been initiated against the automaker.

Even if the driver escapes being injured by a spontaneous Active Head Restraint deployment, they still face the financial burden involved in bringing the car back into driving condition. Chrysler owner’s manuals state that a vehicle should not be driven after an active restraint headrest has been deployed. The driver must have the headrest replaced by a Chrysler dealer and the cost of replacement is not covered under the vehicle’s warranty. In most cases, replacement will cost the owner $500-$900.

Chrysler Vehicles with Reports of Defective Active Headrests

The following vehicle may contain Chrysler active restraint headrest technology:

  • Chrysler 200
  • Chrysler Town and Country
  • Dodge Avenger
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Dodge Durango
  • Dodge Journey
  • Jeep Compass
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Jeep Liberty
  • Jeep Patriot
  • Jeep Wrangler

What to Do About Your Defective Chrysler Active Head Restraints

If you own a car that has experienced a spontaneous deployment of the Active Head Restraint headrest, even if you were not injured, it is important that you document the process as you deal with Chrysler. Contact Osborne & Francis today to learn how we can help you recover your financial losses.

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