General Motors recently recalled about 780,000 compact cars after a defect
led to at least six deaths, according to a
story in Reuters. The fatalities apparently occurred when the cars’ ignitions
switched out of the “run” position while the car was being
operated, thus killing the engine and switching off most of the vehicle’s
electrical components. In some cases, the airbags did not deploy following
a collision. GM recalled the cars that it felt were at high risk of suffering
from the same mechanical defect.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has begun an
investigation of the accidents related to the ignition defect. Although
the company blamed the ignition switch failure on parts made in Mexico,
GM was quick to put some of the fault for the fatalities on the drivers
themselves. GM pointed to everything from heavy key rings, to alcohol
use, to not wearing seatbelts, to poor road conditions as causes of the
accidents that killed the six drivers. The company appears to be trying
to salvage its public relations image while also ensuring that no more
of these accidents occur.
Cars Affected by the Recall
The recall only involves two models that GM no longer makes: the 2005 through
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and the 2007 Pontiac G5. According to a company
spokesman, fewer than 80% of the recalled vehicles are in the United States,
with the remaining cars being in Canada and Mexico. Drivers of the affected
cars are entitled to a free repair and replacement of the defective parts.
Drivers of the recalled models can expect to receive a letter from GM
notifying them of the situation. GM owners can also visit the company’s
website and enter their car’s Vehicle Identification Number to find
out if it is involved in the recall.
Possible Litigation against GM for Wrongful Deaths
The family members of the six drivers killed due to the mechanical defect
may end up bringing
wrongful death lawsuits against GM. In order to prevail, the potential plaintiffs would
need to show that GM breached its duty to the accident victims by releasing
a defective and dangerous product, and that the breach resulted in the
victims’ deaths. Over the years, wrongful death lawsuits against
car manufacturers have produced many multi-million dollar awards for the
families of victims. In this case, the fact that GM issued the recall
means that it is essentially admitting there was a defect in the cars,
which could help the plaintiffs in court. Potential plaintiffs will want
to seek out quality legal representation with experience in
auto accident cases.
What to Do if You Buy a Defective Automobile
If you discover a defect in a recently purchased car, or if a known defect
leads to an auto accident that injures or kills you or a loved one, you
should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney can
review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a viable
claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.