GM Recalls Millions of Vehicles after Driver Deaths

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm announce a recent recall by General Motors, concerning several of its Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn models. About 1.6 million vehicles have been recalled after over a dozen deaths were linked to defective ignitions in these vehicles. The auto giant is also facing a $35 million federal fine for its negligence in this recall.

About 800,000 Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s were recalled in early February 2014, which was quickly expanded to include Saturn Ion compact cars, Chevy HHR mid-size cars, Pontiac Solictices and Saturn Sky sports cars. A full list of the recalled vehicles, including specific models and years, can be found here.

The problem with these vehicles concerns the ignition switch, which could cause the engine and other parts of the car, like the airbags, to unexpectedly turn off. GM detailed an array of situations that might cause an electrical shut-off, including weight on the key ring or uneven road conditions. GM, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), urges drivers to have only the ignition key and nothing else on the key ring and seek repairs as soon as possible, which is expected to be in early April 2014.

The defects are linked to at least 13 deaths from frontal crashes, the majority of which were directly caused by airbags failing to deploy. The automaker stated that all crashes occurred off-highway and at high speeds, and that alcohol and lack of seatbelt usage were also factors in a few crashes.

What makes this recall so egregious and disconcerting is that GM knew of the defective ignition parts as far back as 2004. In that year, the company received reports that a new Cobalt had suddenly lost power after the key shifted from the run position. By 2005, one Cobalt passenger had died in a crash when the airbags failed to deploy.

For reasons unknown, the company did not launch an investigation into this issue until six years later, in 2011. The NHTSA is now opening its own probe into how and why GM handled this the way it did. As stated, the agency is considering fining GM $35 million for its shortcomings.

GM Facing Federal Fines, Consumer Lawsuits

The federal investigation aims to uncover whether GM followed the proper legal process and requirements for reporting defects and potential recalls. Since it has become clear the automaker first learned of the engine defects – and its potential to cause fatal accidents – since 2004, it is looking like they will have to pay the $35 million.

Through several statements, GM admitted that its review of the ignition defects was not as “robust” as it expected of it. Automakers that sell vehicles in the United States are required to report all incidents to the NHTSA that could cause harmful or fatal injuries, however, they are not required to hand over any specific source documents.

Many experts are asserting that much of the blame for these types of failed recalls rests on the federal requirements themselves. Currently, the early warning reporting system is inadequate, and often too little too late to actually fix a dangerous defect and save lives. To use a cheesy vehicle metaphor, the system at present merely looks at automobile defects through a rearview mirror.

GM will now undoubtedly face extensive litigation from the recalls, particularly from families who lost loved ones in crashes caused by the defects. Our team of automobile recall lawyers is currently investigating cases of serious injury and death from defective or dangerous vehicles, including all those recalled by GM. If you have and questions about an automobile recall, crash, or defect, contact our firm today. We offer free legal evaluations to potential clients throughout the country.

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