On September 15, 2014, U.S. national news media reported that the number of deaths confirmed to have been caused by GM’s ignition-switch defect had risen from 13 to 19. The new figure was released by independent administrators of GM’s compensation fund, which was created to provide financial settlements to certain victims injured or killed as a result of GM vehicle defects. According to reports, the fund has awarded settlements to the families of the 19 victims determined to have been killed as a result of the ignition-switch defect, each of which will receive a minimum of $1 million. At least 125 additional applications have been submitted by families of victims who have allegedly been injured or killed as a result of the ignition-switch defect. Though the fund has been reported to be “unlimited,” GM has estimated that the cost of settling eligible claims may reach $600 million.
The defect in the ignition switches of what has now amounted to at least 26 million vehicles was discovered by GM at least a decade before the existence of the defect was revealed to the public or any vehicles were recalled. What is the ignition-switch defect? Stated in simple terms, when the ignition keys in the affected vehicles are bumped or jostled, the electrical systems cut off and disable air bags, power steering, and power brakes. The defect increases not only the risk of a crash but also the risk of injuries sustained in a particular crash when a vehicle occupant is left unprotected by a disabled air bag. Vehicles recalled for this particular defect include Chevrolet Cobalts, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac G5s, Pontiac Solstices, Saturn Ions, and Saturn Skys from model years 2005 through 2007. The parts required to replace the ignition switches in all of the recalled vehicles have not yet become available.
Can GM be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by defective vehicles that are driven after recall notices have been received by owners? Does the unavailability of parts affect GM’s liability? The answers to these questions may depend on the product liability law of the state in which a legal action is filed as well as the circumstances of a particular case.
If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in a car accident as a result of a defective motor vehicle or driver negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or loved one’s death. The Killino Firm’s team of car accident and defective products lawyers has significant experience with all types of vehicle accident cases, including those arising out of accidents caused by defects in cars and other motor vehicles. Contact The Killino Firm for aggressive and experienced assistance with your case.
Legal Liability for Injuries and Deaths Caused by Motor Vehicle Defects
When someone has been injured or killed in a car or auto accident as a result of defects in a car or vehicle safety equipment, the victim or the victim’s family may be entitled to compensation under the product liability and wrongful death laws of the state in which an action is filed. Though product liability law may vary to some extent from one state to another, most states have enacted some form of the Model Uniform Product Liability Act (MUPLA). Under most states’ product liability laws, plaintiffs may recover damages for injuries caused by defective vehicles or vehicle safety equipment through the institution of product liability suits against the manufacturers of defective vehicles and others in the chain of the vehicles’ distribution.
Product liability actions may generally be brought as strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty claims. When an action seeks to recover damages for someone’s personal injury or death, a strict liability action is usually the preferred form of action. Strict liability claims allow a plaintiff to establish the defendants’ liability without having to prove that any of the defendants was negligent in producing the defective vehicle that caused a victim’s injury or death. When defendants are held strictly liable for injuries or deaths caused by product defects, the manufacturer’s recall of the product will not generally relieve the manufacturer and other defendants of liability. Nor can the defendants generally escape strict liability because a victim drove a vehicle after a recall was issued or before parts to remedy a defect were made available. In strict liability rather than negligence actions, the negligence of a victim may not affect the defendants’ liability.
Defects that can lead to such liability may occur at the design or manufacturing stage of production or as a result of a failure to warn of certain dangers associated with the vehicle’s use. Defendants who may be held strictly liable for injuries or deaths caused by any of these three types of defects include the designers and manufacturers of vehicle components, the designers and manufacturers of vehicles as a whole, the assemblers, the suppliers, and in some states, the retailers of the vehicles. Though retailers of products other than motor vehicles are generally included in the list of defendants who may be held strictly liable for injuries or deaths determined to have been caused by a product defect, many states relieve the retailers of motor vehicles from liability for injuries or deaths caused by vehicle defects of which the retailers had no knowledge at the time of sale.
Obtain Expert Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.
The Killino Firm’s auto accident and wrongful death lawyers have achieved national recognition for their dedication to holding those responsible for injuries and deaths caused by motor vehicle defects responsible through legal action. If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in a car or other motor vehicle crash and you suspect that your injuries or loved one’s death was caused by a defect in one of the vehicles involved, The Killino Firm can help you obtain justice from the parties responsible for your injuries or family member’s death.