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Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer: More accidents may be tied to GM faulty ignition switch

Marion MunleyIn what the New York Times reported as the most concrete movement yet that GM intended to compensate victims and their families, the lawyer hired by GM to determine compensation of victims of GM cars with faulty ignition switches met last week with lawyers representing hundreds of people and their families who claim they were affected by accidents involving the vehicles.

This may mean that that the potential number of those affected is much larger than the 13 deaths and 32 crashes that GM has previously admitted are linked to the faulty ignition. The Los Angeles Times reported in March that there could be as many as 303 deaths linked to those faulty ignition switches. This was based on a new report commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety, an independent watchdog group. GM vigorously challenged the report, stating that other issues could also have caused the 303 deaths.

Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer hired by GM, is expected to come up with determining factors for eligibility for claims and also with a formula for compensating victims based on emotional distress and suffering. Feinberg previously oversaw compensation funds related to the 9/11 attacks, the BP oil spill, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Feinberg told The New York Times that the main goal of the session was to hear what lawyers had to say, not to negotiate. On April 24, GM chief executive officer Marry Barra said she expected to receive Feinberg’s recommendations within 45 days.

GM recalled millions of cars in February and March for faulty ignition switches that can move from the “run” to “accessory” or “off” position while driving, causing drivers to lose power steering and air bags not to deploy in crashes.

In addition to facing pending litigation from victims and their families, GM is also being investigated by the Justice Department, Congress, federal highway safety regulators, a group of state attorneys general and the Securities and Exchange Commission for it’s failure to recall cars with the defective switch sooner.

Just how long has GM known about this problem? CNN reported that GM engineers experienced problems with the mechanism that was supposed to hold the ignition key in place in Saturn Ions as early as 2001. An internal report indicated that the problem was solved when the switch was designed.

In 2003, a GM service technician saw a Saturn Ion stall while being driven with several other keys on the key ring, reporting that the additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch.

In 2004, a GM engineer bumped the key in a Chevrolet Cobalt during testing, causing it to abruptly lose power.

In 2005, GM received more reports of Chevrolet Cobalts losing power when the keys are accidentally bumped or moved out of the run position.

In 2006, Delphi, the company that makes the switch, proposed an ignition design change, which was approved and put into production. Apparently, the part number was not changed, so most of the automaker’s employees were not aware of the fix.

In 2007, GM began installing the new, redesigned switch on 2007 model year cars. That same year, GM learned of a fatal 2005 Cobalt crash in which the airbags did not deploy. By the end of the year, GM is aware of 10 Cobalt fatalities where the airbags did not deploy. An NHTSA official wanted to open an investigation at this time, but was blocked by others at the NHTSA.

In 2011, a new investigation was opened into front crashes of Cobalts and Pontiac G5s where airbags did not deploy.

In 2012, engineers noticed all crashes with the ignition switch out of “run” only happened in cars from 2007 model year and earlier.

In 2013, GM hired outside engineers to conduct an assessment of ignition switches from cars made before and after 2007. A GM committee is asked to consider a recall of Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 cars from the 2007 model year and early.

In early February 2014, GM finally initiated a recall on about 800,000 Cobalt and Pontiac G5 cars. Later that month, GM added 600,000 Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky vehicles to the recall.

At the end of February 2014, US auto safety regulators announced they are investigating whether GM responded to the ignition switch problem quickly enough, and in March, the Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into the problem.

In late March, GM expanded the ignition switch recall to add 824,000 cars sold in the United States between 2008 and 2011, which increased the recall to include 2.6 million cars worldwide.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a Chevrolet Cobalt or another GM vehicle, call Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer, Marion Munley, at Munley Law at 855-866.5529. Munley Law will fight for your rights!

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