GM Recall Highlights Hidden Danger To Drivers
In a tragic case that has managed to grab newspaper headlines for weeks, GM’s recent recall which now appears to be headed for an increasingly litigious end. That’s because GM revealed earlier this week that it had hired Kenneth Feinberg, a famous defense attorney who has worked on major disaster payment cases previously.
In fact, Feinberg recently worked on establishing the victims’ fund
for those who were harmed by the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Feinberg
has been brought on as GM says it is considering its options, including
possibly establishing a fund to pay victims of its faulty ignition switch
that is responsible for the millions of recalled vehicles.
The issue at hand involves a tiny part, an ignition switch, that GM revealed recently is prone to going bad. An array of factors, from a bumpy drive to heavy key chains, can cause the part to malfunction. When things go awry they do so quickly, with cars often losing all power while in motion. The lack of power means that important safety features like airbags cease to function, something that has led to multiple deaths and injuries.
According to GM, the number of deaths related to the faulty ignition switch numbers in the low double digits, at last count, 12. However, the Center for Auto Safety, which has been investigating the case for years, says that it has found more than 300 deaths that were caused by the defective equipment.
Even more troubling than the defective product is how long it took GM to reveal the trouble. Initially, when GM announced the recall in February it appeared as if they had only just discovered the problem. However, subsequent investigations revealed that GM engineers knew about the trouble as far back as 2001, 13 years before the recall was issued. Additionally, GM took steps to warn dealers of the possible trouble as far back as 2004, further showing that the company was on notice regarding a deadly problem, yet chose not to act.
As families begin filing lawsuits against GM seeking financial compensation for injuries or the loss of loved ones, some have been stunned to learn that GM might be shielded from liability for many of the accidents. The reason is that GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and, as a condition of their bankruptcy exit, formerly restructured the company into an entirely new legal entity. That means that all victims of accidents that occurred prior to 2009 would have to make a claim against the old, bankrupt GM, not the current company that we know today.
Though GM has faced calls from activists and lawmakers to reject this legal protection, so far the CEO, Mary Barra, has not been willing to firmly promise to take financial responsibility for claims that predate the bankruptcy. Though many hope that the company does the right thing, families and loved ones will have to wait to see how the sad situation shakes out.
If you have been injured in a Mississippi car, motorcycle or tractor-trailer accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi personal injury attorneys at Kobs & Philley at (601) 863-8170.
Source: “Safety group claims 303 deaths linked to recalled GM cars,” published at CNN.com.