As federal investigations into General Motor’s failure to inform the public of a decade-long issue with a faulty ignition switch continue, the much-maligned company just suffered another hit. GM has publicly acknowledged that the defective switches are to blame for 13 known deaths. But new research suggests that the death toll is likely far higher.
News of the issue first hit in February when GM recalled 780,000 vehicles. At that time, 22 crashes resulting in six deaths believed to have been caused by the defective switches had been reported. Investigations showed that in each incident, the ignition switch had shifted out of place, causing the vehicle’s engine to stall and shutting down power steering, power brakes and airbag deployment mechanism as a result. GM quickly responded with a statement that deflected blame to vehicle owners’ use of heavy key rings and driving on bumpy roads.
Weeks later, when six more deaths had been attributed to the issue, GM expanded the recall to include additional models. The company also admitted that it had known about the problem for more than a decade, and that fixing the problem before affected vehicles rolled off the assembly line would have cost just 57 cents each.
Now, journalists with Thomson Reuters, the world’s largest international multimedia news agency, say results of their independent investigation suggest that the actual death toll attributable to the issue may be several times higher – as many as 74 fatalities. Their analysis of statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a national database of crash information, shows that 74 car accident deaths occurring between 2003 and 2010 involved GM cars with the recalled ignition switches, and details of the crashes were typical of those that prompted the recalls. The rate of this type of accident was far higher among GM vehicles than those of other carmakers.
“The news agency compared the incidence of this kind of deadly accident in the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion, the highest-profile cars in GM’s recall of 2.6 million cars with defective switches, against the records of three popular small-car competitors: Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla,” Reuters reported. “The analysis found that the frequency of such accidents in the Ion was nearly six times that of the Corolla and twice that of the Focus.”
Though Reuters’ investigation does not definitively prove that the faulty switches caused these accidents and resulting deaths, the details were consistent with those of fatal crashes that GM had acknowledged.
If you drive one of the recalled vehicles and have not suffered an injury as a result, auto accident attorneys with Clekis Law urge you to take the risk seriously. Take your vehicle to your nearest GM dealer for repair free of charge. However, if you or a loved one have suffered an injury that you believe was caused by a malfunctioning ignition switch, get medical attention and contact an experienced attorney as you may be eligible for compensation for your damages. Call 800-797-LAW1 (5291)