General Motors is currently under investigation by the Senate, the House of Representatives, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a federal prosecutor. The embattled company sent its CEO, Mary Barra, to Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to testify about the nationwide recall of 6.3 million vehicles since February.
Ms. Barra began her tenure as GM’s CEO in January. As lawmakers pressed her for answers about the faulty ignition switches found in several GM vehicles, Ms. Barra remained calm and apologetic for the injuries the company’s mistakes created. However, she also refused to answer many of the questions posed by various representatives, citing the need for continuing investigation.
Faulty Switches Cause Engine to Turn Off
In several GM vehicles, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion, the ignition switch is defective and can cause a vehicle’s engine to slip out of drive and turn off. This effectively cuts power to the brakes, steering, and airbags in a vehicle. The faulty switch has been linked to several accidents, including at least 13 deaths.
Questions from representatives of Congress at the hearing focused on GM’s failure to issue a recall after the company became aware of the defect. Evidence continues to emerge and prove that GM knew the ignition switches in these vehicles were faulty for nearly a decade. A House subcommittee analyzed GM’s database of complaints, and found at least 133 complaints claiming that the vehicles would stall or stop while driving if the ignition switch was jostled or if the car hit a bump in the road. The defective switches were also linked to air bag failures in cars in 2007 and 2010.
David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was also questioned about the defective ignition switch and the faulty air bags. When asked why the NHTSA did not issue a recall for GM vehicles at that time, Mr. Friedman blamed GM for failing to provide the information needed to make the connection between the defective ignition switch and the failing air bags.
General Motors Works to Repair Damage
Ms. Barra called GM’s decision not to recall the vehicles “unacceptable,” and “very disturbing. ” She blamed the failures on the “old GM” way of doing business, and promised that the new GM would be more responsible and put customer safety ahead of cost concerns.
In a show of good faith, GM has hired a noted compensation attorney to oversee a victims’ compensation fund set up to finance the numerous injury and wrongful death claims brought by people who had been injured in accidents caused by the faulty ignition switch. Ms. Barra also apologized for the suffering of the victims’ families.
GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009. Legally, any accidents or injuries which occurred before 2009 are part of the bankruptcy case, and GM has no obligation to pay those claims. However, Ms. Barra was optimistic that GM might try to compensate those victims regardless of the bankruptcy filing. GM will most likely not make any major decisions regarding victims’ compensation for several months.
If you have been injured in a car accident that you believe was caused by a defective automotive part, you may be eligible for compensation. To learn more about your options, contact a Baton Rouge injury attorney at SImien & Simien today, for your free initial consultation. Ph: (800) 374-8422.