Some Say Chrysler Headrests are Smacking People in the Head - NBC Southern California
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Some Say Chrysler Headrests are Smacking People in the Head

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Safety Concerns About Chrysler Headrest Feature

    A safety feature designed to protect passengers may be doing the opposite. Randy Mac reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2018. (Published Monday, Dec. 3, 2018)

    There's a safety feature in Chrysler cars that's designed to protect you. But some say it's causing injuries instead, and it could be potentially putting millions of drivers and passengers at risk.

    "I wanted to buy a vehicle that would be safe and reliable," Laura Baca said.

    But Baca says that's not what she got. She doesn't feel safe in her 2014 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Last summer she was sitting parked in a driveway when she got smacked in the head.

    "I just suddenly got hit very hard in the back of the head. And it pushed me completely forward. I dropped my phone, my hands went down by my feet. It hurt really bad. And I was very confused about what had just hit me," she said.

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    What hit her was her headrest. She says the impact caused a concussion.

    "I never thought that my headrest would just hit me in the head explosively," she said.

    So what happened?

    The headrest is designed to detach and spring forward, like you see in a video presented by the insurance institute for highway safety. It is said to prevent whiplash in a rear end collision. But drivers say the headrests are randomly bursting open.

    Shawn Alger said he's taken the issue into his own hands. He wrapped the new headrest of his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee - also a Chrysler brand - with a bungee cord because he doesn't trust it. He says the original headrest burst open while he was driving, giving him a concussion too.

    "All of a sudden I felt a hit in the back of the head," he said.

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    And this is not a new problem. For a few years now, roughly 150 Chrysler drivers have complained about this issue to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration. A Jeep driver said he suffered a dislocated neck. A Town and Country minivan driver said his headrest didn't activate during a rear end collision, but randomly did 10 days later, striking him in the head.

    "I want Chrysler to start a recall," Baca said.

    But it hasn't. In a statement to the I-Team, Fiat Chrysler said its vehicles "meet or exceed all federal safety requirements" and that "in the rare event of inadvertent deployment, there is no unreasonable risk of injury."

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    Attorney Stuart Talley disagrees.

    "We believe this is a serious safety issue," Talley said.

    Talley believes he's discovered the problem: A plastic bracket inside the headrest holds a spring in place.

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    Talley says the plastic breaks, releasing the spring, and causing the headrests to randomly burst forward. He says millions of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars made after 2010 may contain the headrest. He's suing Fiat Chrysler for failing to fix the problem.

    "The goal of this class action lawsuit is to force Chrysler to initiate a recall to fix this problem," he said.

    "I will never trust Chrysler again," Baca said.

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    Fiat Chrysler didn't comment on the lawsuit to NBC4. But in a response to the court, it denied all allegations.

    The company wouldn't confirm how many cars contain this specific headrest.

    The national highway traffic administration has not opened an investigation.

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