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As families begin to settle with GM over crashes, is it too little too late?

Marion MunleyLast week, more than a dozen families were given a choice to accept a settlement or fight GM in a potentially lengthy court battle over deaths in crashes tied to faulty ignition switches. The families of two Wisconsin girls killed in the 2006 crash of Chevrolet Cobalt accepted offers from GM, dropping a lawsuit in favor the settlement.

The crash that killed 18-year-old Natasha Weigel and 15-year-old Amy Rademaker was one of the first blamed on the faulty switches. According to ABC News, a Wisconsin state trooper investigating the crash made the connection between the position of the ignition switch and the air bags not deploying. An investigation into GMs delay in handling the recall found that both GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were aware of the trooper’s report, but largely ignored it.

Despite evidence from this crash and others that faulty ignition switches were causing engines to stall and air bags to be disabled, GM and federal regulators did nothing for years. Earlier this year, GM finally recalled 2.6 million vehicles that were equipped with the switches.

Not only had GM been aware of the ignition switch problem for more than a decade prior to issuing their recall, but investigations have shown that the NHTSA also received evidence of the safety issue as far back as 2007. That came when Wisconsin officials told the NHTSA of their findings in in the Chevrolet Cobalt crash that killed the two teenage girls. According to a congressional report, the NHTSA either overlooked or failed to understand the implications of the Wisconsin report and didn’t follow up properly.

An article in Time last week quoted David Friedman, acting head of the NHTSA, as stating “any life lost is one too many; anything that we can do to improve in a situation like this, we’ve got to do. We need a new normal when it comes to recalls. Dropping the ball will not be tolerated.”

The Associated Press reported that although GM admitted that people within the company knew for years about and failed to fix the defective switches, some victims’ families would have a difficult time winning against the automaker in court, because of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. A bankruptcy judge ruled that GM is shielded from liability in crashes that occurred prior to July 2008. It is still unclear how many critical crash injuries and fatalities occurred prior to that time.

In a statement, Amy Rademaker’s mother, Margie Beskau, said “GM is hiding behind their bankruptcy, so it would make it very difficult for us to sue them, because Amy died before they filed that bankruptcy.”

Families of victims of crashes that happened after July 2008 may be willing to fight in court, because GM can be found liable for death or injury.

If you have been injured in a car accident that was the result of a faulty ignition switch with a Chevrolet Cobalt or another GM car, contact the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys at 855-866-5529. The personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are experts in the GM recall case, as well as car, truck and bus accidents. The Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys team will fight for you.

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