GM Ignition Switch Nightmare Deepens; Settlement Proposed

Latest Recall Announced Today In Connection With Defective Switches

General Motors yesterday recalled another 8.4 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches that disabled their cars while people were driving. This brings the total number of its recalled vehicles in the U. S. for the first half of this year to an astonishing 25 million.

According to the Center for Auto Safety, 303 people were killed after their steering, brakes and airbags suddenly became disabled and they crashed. GM claims that it only knew about 13 deaths, which it only acknowledged many years after the design defect was first noticed — and only after attorneys proved this in lawsuits. If General Motors had not delayed its recalls for 13 years after it first learned of the defect back in 2001, hundreds of lives would have been spared.

The latest recall announcement was so shocking on Wall Street that the sale of GM’s stock was halted briefly. And a California District Attorney became the first to file suit against the auto giant for its fraudulent practices.

Which models are unsafe at any speed, to quote Ralph Nader’s groundbreaking expose into the Chevrolet Corvair 50 years ago, which accused the auto industry of ignoring safety features?


GM’s president admitted to a Congressional committee investigating this debacle that the enormous corporation did not want to spend a measly 57 cents per car to fix the defect. GM has a stockpile of $27 billion in cash.

Several senators suggested that GM be tried in a criminal court and a federal criminal probe is pending. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families.

Settlement Formula Proposed

GM also announced yesterday that Kenneth Feinberg, the compensation expert in charge of distributing the September 11 and Boston Marathon victim funds, has devised a formula to pay accident victims out of court.

The families of those who died will receive one million dollars plus $300,000 for the surviving spouse and each dependent as well as an additional amount for lifetime earnings lost. For example, the family of a 25-year-old married woman who left two children and was earning $46,400 a year would receive $4 million, Feinberg said.

Those people who suffered bodily injuries will receive from $20,000 (if one night was spent in a hospital) to $500,000 (if 32 or more nights were spent). People who were catastrophically injured could receive substantially more depending on the extent of their injuries, cost of medical care, lost earnings, and other factors. Injured persons with lesser injuries will not receive more than $20,000. In addition, persons who were crashed into or hit while they were walking near these out-of-control cars can also file claims.

The payments could go to people who haven’t even crashed their GM vehicles yet. Wrecks caused by the defective switch through Dec. 31st of this year will be considered for payment.

GM will not invoke the 2009 bankruptcy agreement that might have shielded it from payments for those who accept the proposal. Its president said that it was her company’s “civic duty” to compensate the victims. No doubt the threat of criminal prosecution, civil litigation, and decreased profits was the real reason. It is not known whether victims will accept the settlements or sue.

The models of cars that the company has recalled for the defective switch and other information can be found here:

Problem With Proof Solved?

There is also evidence that the air bags did not deploy. How could a victim or his or her family prove thiese malfunctions years later? The car or SUV has been demolished and its “black box” is gone. Mr. Feinberg said he would also look at evidence like police reports, photos, witness statements, medical reports, insurance claims, and warranty and maintenance records.

Other Lawsuits Filed Against GM

Furthermore, GM faces additional lawsuits due to the failure of airbags to deploy, leading to the death of a Texas man and injuring countless other people.

Four of the recalls announced yesterday involve the Chevrolet Trailblazer, which for years have suffered from fires and door or window failures and which GM also knew about.

Legal Rights of Those Who Have Been Injured by Defective Cars
Automakers like General Motors have a legal duty to produce cars that are safe and must immediately fix any known safety defects. When I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, it was said that “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” Now it appears that nothing could be futher from the truth. GM knew that its ignition switches were defective, covered that up, and kept selling its vehicles until the civil lawsuits uncovered its massive corporate fraud.

If you believe that a defecive vehicle has caused you to have a collision, you should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. Bring in all documents in your possession, including the purchase transactions, repair records, police report and medical bills and records.

Damages in personal injury lawsuits against auto manufacturers include
* Physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
* Medical expenses;
* Loss of earnings and earning capacity; and * Punitive damages in some cases if outrageous conduct can be proved

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