GM Ignition Switch Settlement
Written by Faith Anderson on September 21, 2015
General Motors Reaches $900 Million Settlement Agreement Over Faulty Ignition Switches
General Motors has admitted that it failed to warn the public about a deadly problem with ignition switches in millions of its vehicles, as part of a $900 million settlement agreement the car maker reached with the federal government last week to avoid facing criminal charges. The faulty ignition switches caused car accidents that killed at least 124 people and injured 275 more, and GM has reportedly set aside $625 million to compensate victims and their families who accept a settlement with the company. If you believe you have been harmed by GM’s faulty ignition switches, consult a knowledgeable auto defect attorney as soon as possible to discuss your possible compensation options.
Injuries, Deaths Tied to GM Ignition Switches
Last year, more than two million passenger cars were recalled by General Motors due to faulty ignition switches, which can unexpectedly slip out of position to “off” or “accessory” during use, causing the engine to shut off and disabling the airbags, as well as the power brakes and power steering capabilities. In this new settlement agreement, GM acknowledged that some of its employees knew about the defective ignition switches for more than a decade before the affected vehicles were recalled, yet failed to provide the public with any information about the potential problem during that time.
General Motors Ignition Switch Recall
The original General Motors recall involved 1.6 million vehicles manufactured through 2007, when General Motors made the unexpected change to new ignition switches, which increased the torque required to shut off the vehicles. However, before making the switch, GM had sold as many as 95,000 faulty ignition switches as replacement parts, and because the company never changed the part number, there was no way to track which ignition switch replacements may have been defective. For consumers unknowingly driving vehicles with faulty ignition switches, the potential for the vehicle to suddenly shut off during use, possibly leading to crashes with no airbag protection, posed a risk of serious injury or death.
Following an internal investigation by General Motors, conducted after the problem was made public, the company terminated 15 employees, including lawyers and engineers, for failing to take action to resolve the ignition switch problem, but critics don’t see that as enough of a punishment for the considerable harm caused by the switches. “GM killed over 100 people by knowingly putting a defective ignition switch in over one million vehicles,” said a spokesperson for the nonprofit advocacy group, the Center for Automotive Safety, following the settlement announcement. “Today thanks to its lobbyists, GM officials walk off scot-free while its customers are six feet under.”
General Motors Accused of Failure to Warn
In May 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) levied a $35 million civil penalty against General Motors for violating federal law when the automaker failed to notify the agency of safety-related issues in a timely manner. According to recent court documents, instead of warning consumers and federal regulators about the risk of injury and fatality at the time the automaker became aware of the ignition switch problem, which occurred roughly a decade ago, GM “concealed the defect from NHTSA and the public, taking the matter ‘offline,’ outside the normal recall process, so that the company could buy time to package, present, explain and manage the issue.”
GM Criminal Charges May Be Dismissed
No individual General Motors employees have been prosecuted as yet, in connection with the injuries and deaths associated with the defective ignition switches, and, as long as the company complies with the terms of the agreement for three years, the criminal charges accusing GM of wire fraud and scheming to conceal information from federal regulators will be dismissed. This doesn’t sit well with consumer advocates and critics of General Motors, who argue that the company intentionally withheld information about its faulty ignition switches from the public, exposing car owners to an unnecessary risk of serious injury or death.
Lawsuits Filed Over Defective Ignition Switches
The announcement of the $900 million GM settlement comes just over a year after Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to resolve claims by the Justice Department that the car company withheld information from the federal government about defects in certain Toyota and Lexus models that caused the vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly. In addition to paying out $900 to the settlement fund, General Motors still faces hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed over the deadly ignition switch problem, as well as claims by car owners seeking damages for the lost value of their GM vehicles.
Contact a Reputable Defective Ignition Switch Lawyer Today
Hundreds of people suffered injuries in car accidents involving faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, and another hundred or more were killed. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries allegedly caused by a defective GM ignition switch, or if you lost a loved one in a car accident where an ignition switch problem prevented the vehicle’s safety features from operating properly, contact a reputable product liability lawyer today for legal help. You may have grounds to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against General Motors, in order to pursue the financial compensation you deserve for your losses.