Amidst a recall of 2.6 million cars worldwide, GM has confirmed 13 deaths have been caused by faulty ignition switches, and the number is likely to rise following further investigation.
The problem with the ignition switch is that it easily slips from “engine on” to “engine off,” causing both the power steering and airbags to deactivate. The slip was most often attributed to heavy key chains, and GM is currently warning customers to remove everything except the ignition key from their key chains.
If the key ring was too heavy, the car would think that the key was removed. Upon inspecting the black boxes of 14 cars that had been involved in crashes, engineers found that half of the cars had been in “accessory mode,” meaning that the key was in, but the engine had been turned off.
Without power steering or motor control, accidents are more likely to occur, and without airbags, injuries are likely to be far more serious.
Federal regulators are charged with not opening a formal investigation of the faulty switches, and complain that they could “not identify any discernible trend.” A former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Joan Claybrook, thinks that the regulators made a huge mistake. Claybrook criticized the regulators, saying that “you don’t need data when there’s a design defect. It is per se defective when the ignition turns off on its own.”
Unfortunately for the families of those killed and those who were hurt or had property damage resulting in accidents caused by the faulty ignition, when GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009, they became not liable for any deaths or injuries that occurred before June 10, 2009. All 13 confirmed deaths happened before that date.
However, due to claims that GM withheld documents about the ignition switches and didn’t recall the cars in a timely manner, many personal injury attorneys representing the families of victims wrongful death have reopened cases and are suing GM. Many other victims are also suing and oftentimes settling out of court for damages.
A lawyer representing the family of a wrongful death victim said that “GM hid this dangerous, life-threatening defect from my clients….for over a decade just to avoid the cost of a recall…GM is guilty of betraying our trust.” The crash in question involved 3 girls in a car, 2 killed and one severely injured, when the ignition slipped from running to accessory and the car veered off the road striking a telephone box and 2 trees.
According to Rueters.com, GM has been faced with 5 or more class action lawsuits due to a loss in value of GM cars and also from investors who claim that this scandal has caused the company’s value, and therefore stocks, to lose value.
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, we advise that you immediately contact an attorney. The injury lawyers at Auger & Auger have been representing injury victims in North Carolina for over 25 years.