GM Faulty Ignition Switch Recall Raises Big Questions
On April 1, 2014, Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, appeared before a House subcommittee to answer questions about why the manufacturer allegedly failed for over one decade to inform the public of a fatal flaw in the ignition system of hundreds of thousands of GM vehicles. Congress asked Barra why it took GM nearly 10 years to issue a GM faulty ignition switch recall, despite the company allegedly knowing about the defect. The switches have now been linked to dozens of crashes and 13 fatalities, prompting many to work with a wrongful death lawyer to pursue a claim.
GM CEO Stands Before Congress
Barra said in her opening statement that, “Today’s GM will do the right thing.” While she sincerely apologized to everyone affected by the GM faulty ignition switch recall, particularly the friends and families who were injured or lost their lives, those affected are demanding answers.
Ken and Beth Melton of Kennesaw lost their 33-year-old daughter in one of the accidents allegedly caused by the faulty ignition switch. Brooke Melton was traveling to meet her boyfriend for a birthday dinner celebration in a 2005 Chevy Cobalt when the car shut down, drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic and crashed into another car. She was dead when her parents arrived at the hospital. Her father reportedly whispered in her ear that he loved her, would miss her forever and would “vindicate [her] death.”
Barra reported that GM has hired well-known compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to determine how GM will answer to the surviving family members of victims whose vehicles are included in the GM faulty ignition switch recall as several may consider working with a wrongful death lawyer to pursue claims on behalf of their loved ones. Feinberg helped to oversee compensation matters following the BP oil spill and the Sept. 11 attacks.
After hearing Barra’s statement, lawmakers asked Barra when GM first discovered complications with its ignition switches, as it did not issue a GM faulty ignition switch recall until March 2014. When Barra began to discuss the ongoing investigation, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., asked, “You don’t know when GM knew about the defect?”
GM Faulty Ignition Switch Recall Raises Concerns
The GM faulty ignition switch recall involves 2.6 million cars. The recall prompted the company to review its recall processes and to name a new safety chief and may result in many working with a wrongful death lawyer to pursue claims on behalf of loved ones. GM maintains that new ignition switches will be available April 7. Concerned car owners may request a loaner car from GM dealers while waiting for the replacement part.
After Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked Barra how customers can be sure that their cars will be safe once the new switches are installed, Barra said that, “We will do 100 percent end-of-line testing to make sure the performance, safety and functionality of these switches are safe.”
The line of questioning focused on GM’s alleged admission that the faulty switches failed to meet the company’s design standards. Rep. Joseph Barton, R-Texas asked, “Why in the world would a company with the stellar reputation of General Motors purchase a part that did not meet its own specifications?”
Barra replied that she would be interested to know the answer as well and maintained that the actions of the past do not represent the manner in which the company operates today. Barra was not the only individual responding to questions, however. Lawmakers asked the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration why the agency failed to investigate the vehicles despite receiving numerous complaints from consumers about the stalling cars.
Whether affected persons will receive the answers they are seeking is unclear, but many may be entitled to work with a wrongful death lawyer to seek compensation for their losses. Barra stated that she doesn’t know “why it took years for a safety defect to be announced, but [they] will find out.” The company has expanded the GM faulty ignition switch recall, which originally involved a mere few hundred thousand vehicles. However, on March 31, 2014, the company announced that it would recall an additional 1.3 million cars due to an alleged steering defect.
While Barra stated that the latest round of recalls is evidence of the company’s dedication and devotion to ensuring that consumers are safe, NHTSA chief David Friedman maintained that GM had information for 10 years that could have led to a recall but only brought this danger to light in the last month. Staff members reportedly found 133 warranty claims that GM received over a 10-year period detailing customer complaints after their engines suddenly stalled when they brushed keys with their knees or drove over a bump. Filed between June 2003 and June 2012, Waxman says that the claims are proof that GM knew of the dangers of the vehicles yet failed to act accordingly. He stated, “GM shouldn’t be receiving information over a 10-year period and not taking action to either inform the public or recall the vehicles.”
The mother of a 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose Christian who died in a 2005 crash in Maryland in a Chevy Cobalt reported that 30 family members met personally with Barra and two attorneys from GM and that the family got little reaction. She said they heard, “A lot of, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Renee Trautwein, mother of the late Sarah Trautwein, said she was “sickened” to find out that GM had received more than 100 warranty claims about the problem yet did nothing. Although working with a wrongful death lawyer to seek compensation for losses may help surviving families financially, Trautwein says, “I think [the recalled GM cars] should be taken off the road today.”
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you suspect a product defect in your vehicle, or if you have been injured or lost someone to a defective product, it is important to seek legal counsel from an attorney or wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. If you have questions or concerns about filing a lawsuit, contact Attorney Group today. We can connect you with an experienced wrongful death lawyer who can work to help you seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.