Keyless ignitions are now standard in most new vehicles. Drivers do not use a physical key but instead carry a fob that transmits a signal allowing the car to be started simply by pushing a button. Although the feature is convenient, the driver of the car must remember to push the button to turn the engine off – a big problem when the car has a quiet engine. The combination of keyless cars and quiet engines causes many drivers to mistakenly leave their cars running in a garage, thinking they are turned off. The cars’ “convenience” feature thus becomes deadly or causes serious, permanent brain damage due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: A Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Every year, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning causes more than 400 deaths, 20,000 emergency room visits, and 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to the following serious, permanent injuries:
- Brain damage
- Memory loss
- Cardiac (heart) problems
- Concentration problems
- Speech impediments
- Physical dexterity issues (muscle/movement problems)
- Vision disturbances and blindness
- Hearing problems and deafness
An Ignored Problem
For years, auto makers have known about, but have refused to address, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in keyless ignition cars. As early as 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association became concerned about keyless cars and began warning automakers that keyless ignition cars were susceptible to human error that could cause catastrophic consequences. It noticed that owners of these cars were forgetting to turn them off. In 2006, it issued an update again warning automakers about the dangers of keyless cars. In 2011, the Society of Automotive Engineers recommended a regulation to address safety features like beeps or an automatic shut-off. Even though the cost to install such features would have amounted to only pennies per vehicle, the auto industry opposed the proposed regulation, which never went into effect.
Keyless Car Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Lawsuits
According to a recent New York Times study, 28 people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused when a keyless ignition vehicle was mistakenly left running. Another 45 have been injured. For example, in a suburb of Chicago, a husband and wife were found dead in their home due to carbon monoxide poisoning that came from their keyless car that was mistakenly left running in the garage.
While some victims of carbon monoxide poisoning due to keyless cars have filed lawsuits, others have settled outside of court. In 2015, survivors of keyless car carbon monoxide poisoning, along with the families of drivers who have died due to keyless car carbon monoxide poisoning, filed a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that at least 13 people have been killed and many injured, and that the car manufacturers knew or should have known of the risk of keyless cars. The lawsuit claims those car manufacturers sold the keyless cars without adding the safeguards like the inexpensive auto-off feature that automatically turns off the engine of an unattended vehicle.
Steps to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Cars
Please remember the following safety steps to avoid becoming a victim of keyless ignition carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector in your garage
- Recommend carbon monoxide detectors to your family and friends, especially the elderly
- Always check to make sure your vehicle is turned off before walking away from it
- Always take the key fob with you when you walk away from your car
- Always listen for beeping or other warnings before closing your garage door
- Never leave your key fob in your vehicle
- Always store the key fob far away from the vehicle
Do You Have a Claim?
Hopefully no one you know will ever be injured or killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, and hopefully you will never need our services If, however, you have questions about a potential claim, you should contact an attorney experienced in handling carbon monoxide poisoning cases. The law firm of Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC is currently litigating such a case in the North Carolina Superior Court on behalf of the family of a high school student who died after she was positioned next to the running engine on a wake surfing boat.
Handling cases of personal injury, wrongful death, sexual harassment and sex abuse, and workplace injury and mistreatment, Leto Copeley has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 2005 and included in the list of North Carolina Super Lawyers published by Law and Politics Magazine since 2006. She has also been listed as one of the top fifty women lawyers in North Carolina by the same magazine.