Avoidable Accidents

Both type of "Mis-shift" and "Park-to-Reverse" accidents have been known to automobile manufacturers for years.

This video clip of a police car being parked  and the vehicle starting to roll away in reverse after a delay is a real life example of the defect. The accident was caught on tape by the police car's front camera

Simple Solution 1:
Detent System

The second type of events, "park-to-reverse" events can, and have been addressed by nearly every manufactures by having a detent system that has enough centering force (provided by a spring) to make it impossible to place the vehicle between gears. 

European and Asian car manufacturers have used designs with a stronger spring on nearly all of their vehicles for decades.  Unfortunately, certain American manufacturers, in specific Ford and Chrysler, have used a much weaker detent spring, resulting in the possibility of a vehicle's shift selector being left inadvertently between Park and Reverse where it can then reengage Reverse after a delay.   This defect, and the manufacturers' unwillingness to fix it, has resulted in hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths.

Simple Solution 2:
Out-of-Park Alarm

Both type of events  are prevented by equipping a vehicle with an "out-of-park" alarm which sounds when a drivers attempts to exit the vehicle with the vehicle not in Park.  First discussed in the late 70s at Ford, and placed on certain vehicles in the 80s, and then recommended by a Chrysler engineer in 1999 as a fix to park-to-reverse events, out-of-park alarms have been used by Chrysler and Ford on recently produced vehicles, and are also used by other manufacturers who do not have a false park defect on their vehicles.   

However, despite the alarm being in essence cost-free (as it uses existing systems on the vehicles and only involves computer code to sound the alarm) and its ability to prevent many needless injuries and deaths, both Chrysler and Ford have failed to implement out-of-park alarms fleet wide, so as to address the many vehicles they have produced with the park-to-reverse defect.

A cost-free "Out-of-Park" alarm can effectively alert drivers of the "false park" situation

The park-to-reverse defect may be described using different terms depending upon the factual situation of an accident or event.   All involve a driver who believes that he/she has shifted into "park" and believing so, and the vehicle not moving when they pull their foot off the brake, proceeds to exit the vehicle.   There is then a delay in vehicle movement sufficient for the driver to either fully or partially exit the vehicle before vehicle movement starts.   Typically, the vehicle will move backwards in powered reverse.  However, when placed in "false park" (the vehicle is between the park and reverse gear position; i.e. "false park" and the transmission is in hydraulic neutral, without the parking pawl engaged),  the vehicle can also roll either forward or back in neutral without shifting into a powered gear.   While less common, transmissions with the defect, can also be shifted to between neutral and drive, and then self shift into drive (called a "neutral to drive" accident).

Scott P. Nealey is a San Francisco-based plaintiff's side trial attorney.  He is the founder and principal of Nealey Law, a San Francisco based trial-focused, plaintiff law firm litigating complex class action, consumer and product liability nationwide.  Scott Nealey was the lead counsel in Mraz vs. DaimlerChrysler (2007) and in Guillot vs. Chrysler (2008)  both of which were park-to-reverse cases tried to verdict (since the Jimmy Carter era).  For his work in Mraz, Scott received the 2007 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award and was named a Finalist for San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2008.  Scott was also named one of the Northern California Super Lawyers and San Francisco's Best Lawyers 2012 and 2016.

The material on this website is intended for public education and informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The material is not guaranteed to be complete, or up to date.

This information is not intended to substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.

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