Who Is Liable for Keyless Ignition System Injuries?

car's ignition button

Although you may not remember “Standard 114” or what it regulates, you are more likely to remember the provisions established by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard. The two-part regulation requires that any vehicle with a running engine must be placed in the “park” position to remove the ignition key, and a vehicle cannot be operated after the key is removed. Both safety solutions make sense and automakers selling vehicles in the United States came up with workable solutions at the time. But, that was then and now we may have a bigger problem. A potentially-dangerous keyless ignition system that uses an electronic fob has become a very popular feature on many vehicles being sold today.

Back in 2011, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned consumers and auto manufacturers of the inherent dangers of a vehicle that could be left running inadvertently. At that time, the NHTSA recommended new regulations be adopted that would require some kind of warning to alert the driver that the engine in their car or truck had not shut down. NHTSA officials also recommended that automakers eliminate the ability for an engine to be powered up without the keyless fob being present inside the vehicle. You may have seen advertisements where a car owner starts the engine in their vehicle from some distance away, which is convenient but potentially dangerous.

Rather than moving forward with corrective legislation and enforcement, safety experts over the past five years have presented arguments that are still be discussed today. Critics of the NHTSA's proposal felt that one more alarm with bells or flashing lights might fall short of providing adequate protection as vehicle owners have become somewhat desensitized to auto alarms. After all, most people living in urban areas hear several car alarms go off every day. In addition, unlike seat belts and airbags that protect vehicle occupants in a collision, the deaths from asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning occur inside the driver's home when their car is vacated with the engine accidentally left running.

Allowing a vehicle to start, while the key fob remains in the driver's pocket or purse, is one of the major advantages of a keyless ignition system. The problem arises when the driver forgets to push the stop button to shut off the engine before exiting the vehicle. Although a fob-sensitive system may help protect against vehicle theft, we're mostly talking about “convenience” and not consumer safety. With the growing number of deaths and near-deaths from asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning, immediate industry-wide corrective actions by automakers as well as some level of federal government intervention would seem to provide the most prudent solution.

If you or your loved ones were injured or killed due to asphyxiation from a vehicle that was left running, contact a personal injury attorney immediately to discuss your legal options. Defective automotive products are not a new area for liability lawsuits, but they often are filled with complex legal issues. At Schackow and Mercadante, our personal injury attorneys have years of experience in representing complex personal injury and wrongful death cases. Give us a call at 877-798-7700 to review the details of your claim.