GM had long maintained that its defective ignition switches that prompted the recall of around 2.6 million vehicles had caused 13 deaths. But the man hired by GM to advise on the handling of complaints by consumers over the switches attributed 124 deaths to crashes caused by the switches—almost ten times the number cited by GM.
To avoid criminal charges by federal prosecutors in New York, GM agreed to establish a “full and independent victim compensation program” to consider claims by crash victims. The company set aside $625 million to fund the program. The hired consultant, Kenneth Feinberg, rejected 91% of the 4,343 claims filed, but did approve payments for 124 persons killed and 275 who were injured.
The faulty switches could turn a car off while being driven, resulting in a loss of power steering, power brakes, and airbag deployment. As a result, accidents occurred, people were injured and killed, and some people even suffered criminal prosecution for wrecks that weren’t their fault.
GM had been mishandling the issue for years. It first surfaced in 2001 when a pre-production report described the problem in 2003 Saturn Ions. Although that report claimed the problem had been resolved, switch malfunctions persisted. GM began an engineering inquiry in 2004, but took no further action. It was only after a fatal crash in 2005 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating.
Still, the problem continued for almost ten more years as GM and the NHTSA went back and forth about the cause of accidents involving cars with the bad switches. GM finally recalled the vehicles in 2014. For many victims, however, that was too late. Many people and their families have been irreparably harmed by GM’s negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, particularly one involving a recalled vehicle, contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP online, or call 888.777.1776. We believe that holding people and companies responsible for their actions has the power to change the future, and we’ll help you do just that.