To date, General Motors has recalled over 2.6 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches, and a total of 6.3 million since February. The defective cars have caused at least 13 deaths throughout the country, which is expected to raise as more and more connections are made. GM recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently investigating cases of serious injury or death from defective GM vehicles.
There is much speculation surrounding the recent recalls, most poignantly whether or not the company knew about the extensive defects years before recalls were initiated. In 2005, a 16-year-old girl was driving her Chevy Cobalt when she crashed into a tree. The airbag failed to deploy due to an ignition shutoff, killing her on impact. That same year, a GM engineering manager recommended against fixing the ignition problems because of high costs (the issue could have been solved for about $2 per vehicle).
There are eight other deaths directly linked to Chevy Cobalts, most of which were due to airbag deployment failure. If an ignition switch turns off, which is the problem that prompted the large-scale GM recall, it shuts off the entire engine along with other parts of the cars, including the airbags.
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GM executives are now facing federal investigations and fines, and many of its executives are currently in Washington D.C. to testify before Congress about the defects. Preliminary documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) state that GM knew about the defects and non-deploying airbags but failed to inform consumers until February 2014.
Congressional members will request information from both GM and the NHTSA over why neither tried to recall the defective vehicles sooner, as initial reports indicate GM was aware of the defects as early as 2001. The CEO of GM stated that the company is determined to get to the bottom of this massive, negligent, and fatal oversight.
Many family members of those killed in GM car crashes plan to attend the hearings, wearing blue shirts reading “Protect Our Children.” Dozens have already met with GM executives and attorneys to tell their stories of lost loved ones.
For its part, Congress is likely planning to strengthen a pre-existing law that regulates how automakers and government agencies communicate. In the late 1990s, automakers were required to report more information to the federal government about potential vehicle defects, however, the NHTSA is also responsible for managing the tens of thousands of complaints consumers report every year.
Congress is now concerned that the NHTSA is too overburdened with this influx of information, and is considering passing a bill that will require more transparency between automakers and traffic and safety government agencies. GM is also in the midst of conducting an internal review to determine precisely when, why and how the defects were overlooked, and whether or not it was intentionally concealed.
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Not one of these remedial actions will bring back the lives lost in crashes caused by the defects. Their families are most alarmed that GM is not recommending consumers immediately stop driving the defective cars, which include certain models of the: Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Malibu, and Maxx; Saturn Auron and Ion; and Pontiac G6. Instead, GM officials are simply suggesting that drivers take all extra materials off key chains to avoid triggering an ignition shutoff. The company has also stopped all sales of the Chevrolet Cruz, though it has not yet indicated why.
There has been several personal injury lawsuits already filed against GM, one by the family of two women who were involved in a Chevy Cobalt crash in 2006 – one was killed, the other critically injured. Another suit was filed against the ignition component manufacturer, Delphi Automotive.