GM Aware of Faulty Ignition Switch a Decade Before Recall


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In 2004, a 21-year old woman and her 25-year old boyfriend were riding down a Texas road in a 2004 Saturn Ion when her car veered off the road and slammed into a tree. The car accident killed the man, and left the woman severely hurt with a head injury and a lacerated liver. Police reports indicate the woman was at fault for the incident. One of the first troopers on the scene felt that she was overly emotional and distraught. Looking into her history, he noted she had previously abused recreational drugs, and from that point forward, investigators expected to find drugs or alcohol to be the root cause. There was no evidence to suggest she took evasive action, nor were skid marks present, which caused investigators to believe she was so intoxicated that she didn't even try to stop the collision. The woman admitted she had taken a single generic Xanax the evening before the collision and toxicology reports confirmed the anti-anxiety medication was the only drug in her system. However, due to the mounting evidence, they believed it was enough to have caused her to be intoxicated, and she was indicted on an intoxication manslaughter charge. Due to the potential for a 20 year prison sentence, she pled to the lesser charge of criminal negligent homicide instead. Contributing Factors What neither the investigators, nor the woman, knew at the time was that another entity may have been able to prevent or lessen the severity of the car accident, but chose not to. In 2002, GM was well aware that their ignition switches were riddled with issues, but opted to include them in their new line of Saturn Ions anyway. The NHTSA website contains details from an investigation about the defective product entitled "Valukas report on General Motors," which was carried out at GM's request. The device was so problematic that the engineer who designed the switch called it the "switch from hell." It was not for 10 more years that GM recalled their vehicles, as the faulty ignition switches would power off vehicles, even at highway speeds. Because they could turn the engine off while driving, they also shut off safety features like airbags, power steering, and anti-lock brakes, which could explain the lack of skid marks or proof of evasive action in the case detailed here. Of course, this recall came far too late for one 25-year old man, and the woman who was branded as a murderer her small town. The GM Recall From the moment the ignition switch was being designed and tested engineers knew there was a problem with it. Countless reports of fatalities and injuries have poured in, including one of a 19-year old girl who was killed near Charleston in a car accident involving a vehicle with a faulty ignition switch. GM did not issue the recall until 2014, 12 years after the faulty equipment was knowingly included in vehicles. GM now recommends that people driving the affected vehicles remove everything from their keychain except their keyuntil repair is made. This is a preventative measure, intended to lessen the weight on the ignition switch, which may prevent it from turning off the vehicle. If you own one of the recalled vehicles, get it repaired immediately. See the NHTSA website for a list of recalled vehicles.

Charleston Car Accident Attorney

There are two important things that have come to light during these unfortunate events. First of all, GM did not come clean, nor did they discover the underlying cause of the faulty switch on their own. It was not until an expert, who was hired by a plaintiff's attorney, discovered what was happening with the switches that the recall ensued. Secondly, the woman who was mentioned earlier believed she was not intoxicated, but she accepted a deal anyway. Perhaps her story would have played out differently if it was discovered that her collision involved a faulty product. For these reasons, if you have been injured in an accident, or have lost a loved one, and you believe that you are not at fault, you may need an experienced attorney to ensure justice is served. For a no-fee, no-obligation consultation, contact us using our online form or speak directly with one of our attorneys by calling 1(800)610-2546.

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