Last year, GM recalled all 2005- 2010 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2007-2010 Pontiac G5s, 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstices, and 2007-2010 Saturn Skys. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these cars have a defective ignition switch that could adversely affect the operation of the car’s airbags. The defect can shut down the car’s power steering, disable safety features, and shut off the car’s engine.
Now, Texas lawyer, Robert Hillard plans to depose 35 current and former GM executives as part of a personal injury lawsuit against the company. GM CEO, Mary Barra will be among the individuals deposed. GM attorneys are also being interviewed in the case. According to the Detroit Free Press, these attorneys failed to inform their superiors about the seriousness of the defect. Some personal injury lawyers claim that GM paid its lawyers millions of dollars to protect the company from financial loss due to the defect. The FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and 49 state attorneys general, and even Canadian authorities are currently investigating GM’s handling of the recall. GM already paid $35 million to the NHTSA for its delay in performing its recall. This is a record amount for any company involved in a recall. For more information on personal injury cases due to product liability, visit www.michaelaaronsonesq.com.

GM currently has an Ignition Compensation Fund in place for individuals who have been injured by the defect. Many who choose not to receive money through this fund are suing the company. The fund will likely cost GM $600 million. Over a thousand individuals have applied to receive compensation from the fund. 67 individuals have died as a result of crashes due to the defective ignition switch.
The system by which the public is informed about car defects has been under increased scrutiny given the sheer number of recalls seen in the last few years alone. CNN Money reports that as many as 1 in 5 U.S. cars on the road was recalled in the past year. GM is reportedly the leading car maker responsible for these recalls.
While car companies are responsible for reporting safety issues to the NHTSA in order to ensure that the public is informed about possible dangers their cars may pose, car companies don’t always publish this information in a timely manner. In some cases, the NHTSA relies on public reports of defects in order begin an investigation. Once a report is made, the NHTSA performs screenings, investigations, and recalls, if necessary. While most recalls are initiated by companies themselves, in some cases, recalls must be initiated by the NHTSA.
Companies who have recalled vehicles are required to contact car owners about the recall. However, in some cases, these letters downplay the seriousness of the problem and don’t always reach owners in a timely manner. Furthermore, used car dealerships aren’t required to inform owners that their cars have a defect.
GM reportedly received hundreds of complaints about cars stalling. Furthermore, according to Car and Driver, these problems were internally reported by the company as early as 2001.
Some of the personal injury lawsuits against GM suggest that GM attempted to cover-up the defect. Others allege that the company had a culture of “incompetence and neglect,” according to The Detroit News. If an internal cover-up is found, this would likely lead to greater punitive damage awards in some states.
CNN Money reports that in 2003, a GM technician first saw a Saturn Ion stall. Between 2003 and 2005 more reports were issued about cars stalling. In 2005 engineers suggested a redesign to the car key to mitigate the issue. By 2007, GM was aware of deaths that occurred due to failed airbags. As time went on, investigators found more and more defects that applied to a wide range of GM model vehicles. By June of 2014, GM had recalled over 8.4 million vehicles globally.
Individuals who own the GM cars that have been affected by the recall are urged to contact GM about how to get the defective ignition switch repaired, if they haven’t done so already. Individuals who have been injured as a result of a failed airbag deployment or as a result of the car stalling may wish to contact an experienced lawyer such as Michael Aaronson Esq. to review their rights. Individuals who apply to use the Ignition Compensation Fund may waive some of their legal rights.

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