GM is facing massive legal and financial problems stemming from serious safety issues with its vehicles. Already this year, it has recalled over 20 million vehicles because of safety issues. This week, the company announced that it would recall another 8.4 million cars and trucks for a range of safety defects, which brings the total to over 29 million vehicles worldwide. These recalls not only are extremely expensive for the company, but also are damaging to GM’s image.
You have probably heard stories in the news about GM’s recall earlier this year of 2.5 million cars in the U.S. The recalled cars included Chevy Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions, Pontiac G5s, Pontiac Solstices, and Saturn Skys. Those cars had faulty ignition switches that sometimes moved out of the on position while driving. That could result in a loss of power to the vehicle, which often caused crashes due to the engine, power steering, and brakes being disabled. The airbags would fail to deploy, because of the loss of power. GM has known about the defective switch issue since 2004, but failed to take action. This resulted in 13 deaths and 54 accidents.
This latest round of recalls announced this week also involve defective safety switches. The cars involved include the Chevy Malibu, Oldsmobile Intrigue, Oldsmobile Alero, Pontiac Grand Am, Chevy Impala, Chevy Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Cadillac CTS, and Cadillac SRX. Three people have died in those vehicles, but GM says it cannot tie their deaths to the defect. For those vehicles, keys will be retrofitted with an insert that has a hole at the end to prevent them from bumping out of position.
The other recalls announced this week, in addition to the defective safety switches, are for a range of problems. One problem in particular, with the Chevy Trailblazer, has been simmering for years. Certain Trailblazers have been known to have a defect that can cause window or door failures as well as fires. Safety regulators opened an investigation into Trailblazers based on consumer complaints about fire risks, but eventually only did a recall in certain areas of the country that used salts on the roads, blaming the problem on rust. However, now GM appears to be admitting there are safety problems with the Trailblazer that must be fixed.
GM, and its CEO have come under a lot of fire this year for covering up serious safety issues with its vehicles, which have led to at least 13 deaths and many more injuries. Congress has opened an investigation, and GM is facing numerous lawsuits from people injured in those accidents. Attorneys for the company have advised it to settle the cases out of court, fearing that juries would award large amounts of punitive damages after they learned of GM’s cover-up.
Although it’s a positive step in the right direction that GM is being proactive now about uncovering safety defects and fixing them, it’s questionable whether the company would have issued any recalls if the problem with their safety switches had not been made public. After all, recalls are expensive, not just in terms of the cost to repair the vehicles and to notify owners, but also in terms of the negative publicity to the company. Unfortunately many companies, not just GM, have chosen to put corporate profits ahead of consumer safety. They may assume that it will be cheaper to quietly pay damages to any individual who is injured or the family members of a person who is killed by their dangerous product than it is to issue a massive recall.
If a company manufactures a defective product, such as a car, prescription drug, or children’s toy, it has a duty to recall it once it becomes aware of the problem. A person who is injured by the product has the right to seek compensation, including damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that a company that manufactures a dangerous product should be held responsible for any damages that occur as a result. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 if you have been injured by a defective consumer product. She will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.