Delivery trucks are constantly on the road nowadays, ferrying packages to home and business addresses. This increased traffic can already raise the risk of car accidents, especially with the breakneck speed at which delivery drivers are expected to push through their routes—but in this unusual type of car accident injury, it may not be the person behind the wheel that’s directly at fault.
Although certain Mercedes Sprinter vans are supposed to put the vehicle in park automatically, investigators and attorneys have found that this isn’t always the case. What do you do when a runaway delivery van hits you or strikes a vehicle in which you’re riding?
Any large van may be suitable for package delivery, but those with an “e-shifter” automatic shifting capability, including some Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans with model years 2019 and later, make delivering packages particularly convenient—at least in theory.
Electronic shifters like these are supposed to automatically shift the vehicle into park once the driver gets up from their seat. A delivery driver making several deliveries along a road doesn’t have to stop repeatedly to put the car into park. This extra feature can shave precious seconds off of every individual stop a delivery driver makes, allowing them to streamline their stops and ultimately make it through their route faster. Many Amazon delivery trucks on the road today are Mercedes Sprinter vans with e-shifters, according to Verve Times.
The problem that’s being reported is instances of these vans allegedly rolling away after using the automatic parking shift function. This issue of Mercedes Sprinter vans that would “roll away shortly after being shifted to park using the Auto-P function” was reported with enough frequency that it prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to launch an investigation in August 2021.
The results of the preliminary evaluation included at least 11 reports of complaints, including at least eight crashes or fires and one known injury so far.
In January 2022, dealers began to be notified of a recall that was submitted to the NHTSA on December 15, 2021, and acknowledged by the federal agency in January. According to the Part 573 Safety Recall Report submitted by the manufacturer, the rollaway issues result from a “defect” of the ESP Control Unit Software that constitutes “a rare and temporary park lock system error.”
The recall included nearly 50,000 vehicles, according to Kelly Blue Book, although manufacturer Daimler Vans USA, LLC estimated that only 1% of this population had this defect.
“A rollaway vehicle with no operator behind the steering wheel could potentially strike pedestrians, moving or parked vehicles or buildings resulting in injury, fatality and/or property damage,” the NHTSA noted in its report.
By definition, a vehicle that rolls away on its own after it has been parked is an out-of-control vehicle. Runaway vehicles are very dangerous even if they don’t reach high speeds, because there’s no one at the wheel to keep an eye out for pedestrians or stop for traffic signs and signals. Delivery drivers themselves, too, may be struck as they walk around the vehicle if the van shifts out of park on its own.
In the residential communities and business parking lots where delivery drivers often stop to deliver packages, there are plenty of pedestrians and other vehicles that could wind up in the path of a runaway delivery van. Some reports of incidents have even alleged that rollaway incidents occurred even when the driver has confirmed that the shift indicator showed that the vehicle was in park. Further, some reports have alleged that this issue has occurred at times even when the parking brake has been applied, although the recall notice claims that the incidents have happened “only in the specific circumstance that the driver does not follow the proper, prescribed steps for safe parking (emphasized in the operator’s manual) and instead exits the driver’s seat without setting the parking brake.”
If you have been injured by a runaway delivery van, you might not know what to do next. You may know that you would typically sue the driver of a vehicle that hit you—but in this case, there was no one behind the wheel who was directly negligent in striking you.
Attorneys who handle product liability claims—cases against manufacturers who are accused of negligence—are now investigating matters of accidents and injuries caused by rollaway delivery vans. As the victim of an out-of-control delivery van, you shouldn’t be the one responsible for paying for the consequences of the collision.
This may be a complex legal matter due to the assortment of possible defendants involved (potentially, everyone from the driver themselves and the delivery company that employs them to the manufacturer of the vehicle or its parts), but those intricacies shouldn’t stop you from getting the compensation you need and deserve.
For decades, our experienced car accident and product liability attorneys have been untangling complicated legal matters and getting clients the maximum amount of compensation for their damages. We’re investigating potential cases against the manufacturers of delivery vans with malfunctioning automatic e-shifters (and defective software and other auto parts) at no upfront cost to accident victims.
If you’re interested in having the law firm of Console & Associates, P.C. fight for the compensation you deserve (at no upfront cost), here’s what you need to do: