The Department of Transportation announced recently that General Motors (GM) has been fined $35 million by the federal government for its failure to address an ignition switch defect in a timely fashion. Lawsuits brought by victims of accidents caused by this defect allege that GM knew about the issue for nearly a decade before it began to announce recalls.
Failure to Recall the Vehicles
Federal laws specifically require car manufacturers to quickly issue a recall for any discovered auto defects and to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) within five days of discovering the safety issue.
It is alleged that GM knew as early as 2004 of a defect in the Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch. The defective switch could shut the car off while driving, which would in turn disable power steering functions, airbag deployments, and anti-lock brakes. The defect has been linked to over 300 deaths. However, GM failed to issue a safety recall of the Cobalt and other affected models, or to notify NHTSA of the possible defect.
Under the leadership of a new CEO, Mary Barra, GM finally announced a recall of 2.6 million vehicles in February 2014. Suspecting that GM had prior knowledge of the defect and had violated federal regulations by not bringing attention to the defect sooner, NHTSA started an investigation.
NHTSA investigators concluded that GM failed to comply with federal safety regulations and ordered the company to pay a $35 million penalty—the largest fine the NHTSA is authorized to issue. The government also has an ongoing criminal investigation and members of Congress are calling to increase the maximum penalty to $300 million.
Anyone who has suffered injuries from sudden loss of control or an airbag failure to deploy in a GM vehicle may be entitled to substantial compensation through a products liability lawsuit. An experienced Lopez McHugh products liability attorney can help you with a potential claim. Call us today for assistance.