GM recalled its 2005-2007 Chevy Cobalts for faulty ignition switches, which are alleged to have caused a number of deaths and traumatic injuries. GM expects to begin replacing the ignitions in April 2014 and will not charge consumers for the repairs. If you have received a recall notice, you need to make an appointment with your dealer to have the part replaced.
How Dangerous Is This Defect?
When the ignition switch malfunctions, the vehicle’s electrical system loses power and the engine shuts off. Your power steering and brakes cease to work, and your airbags cannot deploy. In other words, you are far more likely to crash and will not have the protection of your airbags when you do.
How Likely Is This to Happen?
All it takes is a jarring of the system. A heavy chain of keys, a pot-hole, or a bump in the road can do it—even a jostling of the keys with the driver’s knee. GM has sternly cautioned owners to remove everything but the ignition keys from their key rings until the parts can be replaced. In addition, the company is said to have instructed dealers to lend replacement vehicles to owners who are afraid to drive their Cobalts before the repairs have been completed.
What Can You Do If You’ve Been Injured Due to a Defective Vehicle?
If you are injured in an accident and your injuries are found to have resulted from the defective design or manufacture of your vehicle, you may be entitled to compensatory damages (i.e., damages that compensate you for your losses) for things such as your medical expenses, loss of earnings and ability to earn, physical pain and suffering, and even mental anguish.
In some cases, punitive (i.e., punishing) damages may also be awarded. These additional damages may be warranted if the manufacturer was aware of a defect and its danger to the public but failed to take adequate steps to correct it. As stated below, GM has been alleged to have engaged in exactly this sort of egregious conduct.
Lawsuits have already been filed against GM for injuries suffered as a result of the Cobalt ignition-switch defect.
What Type of Actions are Brought to Recover Damages for Injuries Caused by the Chevy Cobalt Ignition-switch Defect?
When a person has been injured as a result of a product defect, a product-liability action is generally instituted against several parties to recover damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of his or her injuries. When the product defect in question is found in a motor vehicle, such actions are generally brought against, among others, the manufacturer of the vehicle as a whole, the manufacturer of the component part that is alleged to be defective, the designer of the vehicle as a whole, the designer of a component part that is alleged to be defective, the assembler of the vehicle, the suppliers of vehicle parts, and, in some states, the sellers, or retailers, of the vehicle.
These actions are usually brought as strict liability actions, which do not require the plaintiff to demonstrate or prove that any of the defendants were negligent in causing the vehicle to be designed or made in a defective condition. Defects in strict liability actions may exist in a vehicle’s design, manufacture, or as a result of a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the vehicle’s use.
Will GM’s Bankruptcy Prevent You from Being Compensated for Your Injuries?
GM has filed bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S. Code Chapter 11), which allows a company that cannot meet its debts to reorganize its business. As a result of GM’s reorganization, it became, in legal effect, a different corporation than the one that existed prior to its bankruptcy. As of June 10, 2009, the old GM ceased to exist and a new GM was born. Under the terms of the bankruptcy order, the new GM can still be held liable for injuries caused by defective vehicles designed and manufactured by the old GM, as long as the incident that results in such injuries occurred after GM’s bankruptcy.
Some plaintiffs have also brought suits against GM for injuries that occurred before GM’s bankruptcy. Under Title 49 of the U.S. Code, NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which GM must comply with. According to NHTSA, GM violated these standards, because it was aware of the defect and the injuries it caused, yet failed to take steps to repair the affected vehicles. Because GM also failed to inform the bankruptcy court of the defect and the liabilities that could occur as a result, lawyers across the country are filing suits alleging that the current GM is liable for injuries that occurred before June 10, 2009.
Obtain Expert Assistance from an Experienced Personal-injury Attorney
Today’s writer, Jeff Killino, is the managing partner of The Killino Firm, P.C. and a respected litigation attorney with extensive experience with all types of accident and other personal-injury cases, including those arising out of injuries caused by defective vehicles or other products. Attorney Killino’s knowledge and expertise have awarded him national recognition through appearances on major television networks, including CNN, ABC FOX, and the Discovery Channel, to speak about his involvement in national cases, including one that resulted in the recall of 450,000 tires manufactured in China.