This year, car owners learned of two major recalls, both for dangerously defective parts. The first was the widely publicized recall by General Motors for defective ignition switches in their cars. Your Denver personal injury attorney explains that the faulty ignition switches cause unexplained stalling in moving cars, as well as a sudden loss of power which can disable airbags, power steering and power brakes. The defective ignition switches have been linked to 30 deaths and many injuries. GM’s recall ultimately involved 2.6 million vehicles.
The second recall concerns defective airbags made by Takata Corporation, which supplies a fifth of the global market. Eleven carmakers, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Ford, Chrysler and BMW have recalled more than 14 million cars to date. The defective airbags, which have faulty inflators that cause metal shards and chemicals to shoot out when the airbag deploys have caused four deaths and at least 139 injuries.
As anyone who has followed the GM recall knows, what was even more shocking than the number of cars affected and people harmed was the revelation that executives at GM knew, for about a decade, that the ignition switch was dangerous. The recall of vehicles with defective Takata airbags is uncovering a similar scenario. There is evidence that Takata knew that the propellant in the inflators caused the airbags to explode upon deployment as far back as 2004 when an airbag exploded in Alabama and injured the driver. Former Takata employees have disclosed that Takata ran tests on the airbags after the 2004 accident but the results were never disclosed and all data was destroyed that year. Despite further accidents involving the defective airbags, Takata did not push the automakers it supplied to issue recalls, nor did it change the way it manufactured the airbags.
A trial on the safety defects in the GM cars has been scheduled for early 2016. The trial will be a wrongful death or personal injury case (not yet identified), and will be part of consolidated litigation involving more than 100 lawsuits against GM. Your Denver personal injury attorney points out that GM faces the prospect of a substantial jury verdict and possible punitive damages for what a jury could consider willful misconduct because the company waited for a decade to recall cars with a lethal defect, which goes beyond normal negligence. With so many outstanding lawsuits, and the prospect for such a large verdict, GM could pay for its failure to timely act on its knowledge of the ignition defect for years to come.
For its part, Takata is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Government Accountability Office. Federal prosecutors in New York City are looking into the case as well. Takata executives should be watching the GM litigation carefully because wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits seeking large awards and punitive damages will likely be headed their way next.
If you have been in an accident involving either a GM ignition switch or a Takata airbag and you want to know your legal rights, or if your car has been recalled due to either defective part, contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm right away.