Automotive defects pose a great danger to anyone on the road. If an auto maker finds that some of their vehicles are unnecessarily dangerous, they have an obligation to report the defect and offer to recall the affected vehicles. If a car manufacturer or any type of company is aware that their products pose a risk to consumers but does not take reasonable measures to ensure safety, they could be held liable for any injuries or deaths that result from the defect.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting a story that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating auto manufacturer General Motors (GM) in order to determine why they did not issue a recall after discovering a defect in more than 1.6 million of their vehicles. The defect occurs in the ignition switch of some vehicles. It allows vehicles to be accidentally turned from the ‘run' position to the ‘accessory' position while the car is in motion. When this happens, it causes the engine as well as the power steering, antilock brakes and airbags to shut off. So far, the defect has been linked to at least 31 crashes and 13 deaths.
While this defect likely would be news on its own, the NHTSA is investigating General Motors because they believe that the company was aware of the defect since 2004 and failed to take action until this year, 2014. The Los Angeles Times states:
According to documents filed with the safety agency, GM knew of the defective ignition switches as early as 2004, and issued a service bulletin for its dealers in 2005. GM encouraged dealers to tell affected customers to remove all unnecessary items from their key chains.
The article also discusses a case of a 16-year-old girl who was killed in 2005 when her Chevrolet Cobalt slammed into a tree. Investigators later found that the ignition switch of the vehicle had been set to the ‘accessory' mode. After this accident, General Motors started tracking similar collisions and found that another 10 crashes had resulted from the ignition being set to ‘accessory' while the vehicle was being driven.
Not only could this investigation result in steep penalties for GM (if the NHTSA determines the company was negligent, they could be fined up to $35 million), they're also leaving themselves open to wrongful death and injury claims. Anyone who experienced injury due to this defect after 2004 would likely have a strong case in an injury or wrongful death case against General Motors.
Under New Hampshire law RSA 507:8-g, liability is limited if the defendant in a product liability case was unaware of the risks their product posed to the user. Based on this article, this would not be a valid defense for GM. The information in the NHTSA's investigation suggests that the auto maker was aware of the danger the ignition defect and yet did nothing to protect consumers.
If you have been hurt in an accident involving a defective product in New Hampshire, contact an injury attorney right away. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages from inability to work and more.