Death Toll Reaches 21 for GM’S Faulty Ignition Switches

According to a recently released report by an unnamed lawyer working for the program to compensate victims of accidents caused by GM’s faulty ignition switch, the number of deaths deemed eligible for compensation has reached 21 with another 16 eligible claims for serious injuries.  Reuters has reported that as of August 1, 2014 a total of 1,675 claims have been submitted for serious injuries or deaths related to the faulty ignition switch.  Of those claims, 143 are related to  fatalities attributed to the accident.  Statistically, with only 37 of the 1,675 claims deemed eligible, only 2% of the submitted claims have been deemed eligible for compensation. Earlier this year, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles over the faulty ignition switch.  The ignition switch defect allows the ignition to slip out of position during vehicle operation which results in the disabling of the airbags and causes the vehicle to stall and lose power steering and power braking capabilities.  Investigations have shown that GM executives not only had knowledge of the faulty ignition switches as far back as 2004, but emails obtained by Reuters showed that the parts could have been fixed for about 90 cents per car, plus $400,000 in tooling costs.  In May, NHTSA fined GM $35 million, the maximum amount allowed under the law, for their delay in recalling vehicles with the faulty switch. In the consent decree, GM “admitted that it broke federal law by not recalling the vehicles in a timely fashion” reported Vox. In an ironic twist, GM’s bailout from the federal government could also become a factor. “As part of the government restructuring, GM technically isn’t liable for injuries that happened before it went bankrupt in the summer of 2009. That potentially includes some of the victims of the ignition-switch defect,” according to Vox.  However, according to Peter J. Mougey, head of Levin, Papantonio’s Business & Securities Litigation Section, “Our bankruptcy laws are not designed to shield debtors from injuries caused by problems their companies knew about and failed to fix,”  Mougey believes the new GM, the post-bankruptcy GM, will be held liable for the hidden defects as company executives were aware of the problems and did not tell consumers. In cases where there are questions as to whether an accident is related to a manufacturer’s recalled part, a forensic engineer is often utilized.  Forensic engineering and accident reconstruction involves analysis of physical evidence in an effort to understand the events and circumstances immediately preceding an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineers are highly trained, licensed Professional Engineers who specialize in accident reconstruction and failure analysis.  Typical investigations involve analyzing crash related evidence, and pre-crash evidence, to identify potential mechanical failures which may have caused or contributed to an accident.

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