Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
August 24, 2017

Keyless Ignitions Pose Dangers and Car Companies are Getting Away with Murder

Starting a car via a key fob rather than putting a key in the ignition is certainly convenient. However, as more and more people are discovering, the convenience of keyless ignitions can prove deadly.

What’s even more tragic than the loss of life attributed to keyless ignitions, is that because the legal and political systems don’t hold them as accountable as they should, there’s no compelling reason for automakers to fix these systems and prevent future deaths.

Keyless ignition involves the human factor of people having to get used to a completely new technology and lose their old habits.

When people use a keyless ignition the way they did when they had a regular key, they might end up leaving their car running in the garage, thinking it’s off because they’ve got the key with them in the house.

People are dying because the carbon monoxide generated by the running car is traveling into their homes and killing them.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Keyless Ignition Silent Killer

Drivers think they’ve turned off their vehicles when they park them in the garage at night. If they forget to push a button, however – and it’s easy to do – the vehicle may continue running and cause deadly carbon monoxide to seep into the home.

Carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer,” because the gas is odorless, and virtually undetectable until it’s too late.

As of 2016, at least 21 people have died due to carbon monoxide leaks from keyless ignition vehicles. Many more narrowly escaped death and spent time in the hospital. Some have suffered permanent brain damage.

Unlike various types of household appliances, keyless vehicles don’t have automatic shutoffs.

Unintended Vehicle Rolling Crisis

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t the only serious keyless ignition issue. With an ignition requiring a key, the driver has to place the car in “park” before turning it off.

With keyless systems, that’s not the case. The driver can hit the button while the car is still in “drive” or “neutral” mode, and while the car will stop, it can easily start rolling and hit a person, a vehicle, or another piece of property.

A License to Kill

Massive changes in the law give wealthy corporations a legal right, or at least the practical freedom, to kill, cheat, and lie to consumers.

It’s the equivalent to a license to kill, and you’re more likely now to be screwed over, killed, or defrauded by a big corporation than at any other time in recent history.

The reasons for this involve changes in the law that have come about in three basic ways:

  • Changes in punitive damages.
  • Changes in the law of arbitration.
  • Changes in funding judicial elections, or the changes in how judicial elections are being funded and handled.

Those three factors have created a new reality for Americans, and most people haven’t even noticed it.

Class Action Lawsuit

In August, 2015, 28 plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against 10 major automakers in Los Angeles Federal Court. The suit states that, “In the name of convenience, and often at an increased purchase price, the automakers created keyless fobs without instituting adequate safeguards, warnings, or other safety features.

The automakers failed to properly consider the ramifications of eliminating the physical and psychological connection between the vehicle and physical keys.” The suit states that buyers were never warned of a carbon monoxide risk associated with keyless ignitions.

However, a little more than year later, a California federal judge tossed out the suit, stating the plaintiffs neither showed how they were personally affected by keyless ignitions, nor mentioned defects in their individual vehicles.

The Keyless Ignition Fix That Never Was

Several years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came to the car makers with a proposed fix. The car makers agreed to the idea of a fix, but they wanted something different. However, they all agreed to go to the Society of Automotive Engineers for a solution. Even though the car makers claimed to agree, none of them are implementing the fix until the government makes them.

Additionally, the legal departments and the legal responses to NHTSA’s proposed rule-making have slowed it down to the point where years have passed and they haven’t issued the rule. Meanwhile, the car companies are still making all these vehicles without any fix.

In the past, if a case about a carbon monoxide death from a keyless ignition went forward, the jury would say, “This has got to stop.”They would reach a verdict that was intended to stop it, and make the automakers fix the problem going forward.

Now, changes in laws have made it so the courts can’t really do that. That means an individual may win a liability case, but the deaths and injuries are going to keep happening. The lawsuit no longer stops the harmful behavior from happening in the future.

What we’re left with is a public problem that’s killing people.

Engineers at the automakers have already proposed solutions, but they’re not going to execute them until the day the government forces their hand. Instead, they’re going to allow people to be irreparably hurt or killed, at which time they’ll pay them and their families off, because that’s the financially smart thing to do. And it’s only the financially smart thing to do because the law has changed.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a keyless ignition vehicle, call lawyer John Uustal – his national record for holding auto companies accountable on behalf of injured victims and their families is extraordinary.

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