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Park-to-Reverse Accidents

Motorist in Texas and nationwide have suffered disabling injuries in accidents caused by their vehicles suddenly moving into reverse gear.

If a park-to-reverse accident has happened to you, the personal injury lawyer who protects your rights — specifically your right to obtain maximum financial compensation for all accident-related expenses, including vehicle repair or replacement — is Richard D. Weaver, founder of The Weaver Law Firm in Houston.

When The Weaver Law Firm represents you in negotiations with insurers for motor vehicle manufacturers, or in court for litigation against them, you benefit from Richard D. Weaver’s many years of investigative and trial experience. Our law office is well known in Harris County, San Antonio and across South Texas for its effective, efficient counsel, loyalty to our clients and attentive personal service.

Park-to-reverse defects in certain makes and models of U.S. cars have played prominent roles in accidents causing serious injury, catastrophic injury and wrongful death legal actions nationwide. Manufacturer may have issued recalls for some models.

A “park-to-reverse” defect can exist in a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission when there is inadequate mechanical force (called “detenting force”) provided by the automatic transmission system to ensure that a vehicle always defaults into an intended gear position (such as park or reverse) when an operator does not fully shift into that intended gear position.

In a vehicle with a park-to-reverse defect, an operator of the vehicle in normal use can inadvertently and unintentionally place the shift selector between the intended park and reverse gear positions. Rather than defaulting into the park or reverse gear position inside the transmission (called a detent) as it would in a properly designed vehicle which meets industry standards, in a vehicle with a park-to-reverse defect, the shift selector can remain for a period of time (several seconds or longer) between the intended park and reverse gear positions and from this “false park” position the vehicle then may (or may not) have a delayed engagement of powered reverse.

Because of the possible delay in the engagement of reverse gear when an operator places the vehicle into what, from the vehicle’s “cues,” the operator would reasonably believe to be park, the park-to-reverse defect is unreasonably dangerous because an operator may have exited the vehicle, or be exiting the vehicle, when the vehicle suddenly and unexpectedly moves backwards in powered reverse.

As a result of injuries and deaths resulting from park-to-reverse accidents (sometimes referred to as inadvertent rearward movement) from at least the 1950’s and 1960’s, the automobile industry, and Ford in particular, (in Richard Weaver’s opinion) has long been aware of the defect, and the need to design vehicles so as to prevent the vehicle’s shift selector from being inadvertently placed in a position between the intended gear positions from which the vehicle can then have a delayed engagement of reverse.

Vehicle manufacturers are well aware of the need to design its automatic transmission system so that an operator could not leave the vehicle between park and reverse from which there could be a delayed engagement of reverse. Notice to vehicle manufacturers of the need to avoid a park-to-reverse defect included:

  • Numerous park-to-reverse incidents on various vehicles in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s about which a certain manufacturer received notice of through customer complaints; these included hundreds of complaints on a wide range of models equipped with same or substantially similar transmissions;
  • FORD investigated the park-to-reverse safety issue in the early 1970’s. It was, at that time, the third highest volume safety complaint being logged in Customer Relations Potential problem reports;
  • Numerous reports of injuries and deaths and an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of Ford’s vehicles equipped with C-3, C-4, C-6, FMX and JATCA Automatic Transmissions. In 1980, NHTSA received reports of over 23,000 problems of inadvertent vehicle movement of Ford built vehicles, resulting in $5,593 accidents, 1,720 injuries and 97 deaths.
  • In February 1980, Ford reported knowledge of 2,252 accidents, 1,818 property damage, 703 injuries and 42 fatalities involving vehicles where inadvertent rearward movement was involved. FORD also reported at least 361 lawsuits involving allegations of inadvertent rearward movement.
  • In a political agreement signed with the Department of Transportation, over the objections of NHTSA, on December 30, 1980, Ford agreed to send warning labels to approximately 22 million owners rather than, as NHTSA believed necessary, recalling them for mechanical repair.
  • A 1985 NHTSA study found that Ford park-to-reverse accidents had caused a total of at least 306 deaths.
  • In October 1991, Ford instituted a recall of Ford Aerostars, Bronco II’s, Explorers and Rangers built in 1989-1991 to remedy a park-to-reverse problem in these vehicles.
  • Well aware of the cause of the defect, and its danger, Ford designed the circuit boards in certain of its vehicles so Ford could easily install an out-of-park alarm to warn drivers when the vehicle was in false park.

Despite numerous accidents, injuries, and deaths in park-to-reverse accidents, Defendant FORD elected not to install out-of-park alarms on all of its vehicles susceptible to park-to-reverse problems or design its vehicles’ transmissions to prevent the problem.

The standard of care in the automobile industry is to fully investigate complaints or reports received by an automobile manufacturer which appear to pose a potential or actual safety risk.

The investigative process by which complaints or incident reports are investigated is a technique called root cause analysis in which the vehicle manufacturer’s engineering staff or outside consultants will (a) determine if the issue is safety-related; (b) carefully analyze the complaint to fully understand it; (c) attempt to reproduce the complaint on the subject vehicle or an exemplar; (d) determine if the problem is a manifestation of a unique vehicle feature ( e.g., a vehicle manufacturing defect); (e) if the problem is not so identified identify the engineering feature of the product which allows for the mechanical system to perform in the manner complained of; and (f) determine if there is an engineering solution through redesigning the product which will prevent it as a mechanical system from manifesting the complaint in the system or if an adequate redress is not feasible, then warn adequately to prevent injury.

If you or a loved one was seriously hurt by the unintentional rear-ward movement of a Ford Vehicle, F-150, or F-250, or your car due to a defective transmission, causing an accident, we urge you to be in touch with us immediately. Substantial punitive damages have been rewarded in cases like these around the country. Richard D. Weaver will work hard to help you defray your lost wages, medical bills and car repair in a settlement that also reflects your pain and suffering, and emotional trauma.

Experienced, Effective Legal Representation

Contact The Weaver Law Firm in Houston to discuss the details of your park-to-reverse accident and the injuries you sustained. Your initial consultation is free of charge and can be conducted at your home or hospital room if you are confined there while recovering. Call 713-572-4900 or send an email. Se habla español.

Our contingency fee policy means you owe no attorney fee unless we win or settle your case.

Se habla español: Spanish-speaking services are available at our law office.