There has been a lot of troubling information in the news lately about automakers knowingly putting Americans in harm's way. On the heels of Toyota's sudden acceleration nightmare, General Motors recently admitted that there are potential problems with ignition switches in many of its vehicles. In both cases, the automakers reportedly knew of the potential defects long before issuing any recalls--and the defective vehicles ended up leading to traffic deaths.
Last month, GM recalled 1.6 million vehicles due to the ignition switch issue. The company has been aware of the problem since 2001, and the recall came only after 12 deaths were linked to the defective auto part.
GM has said that the affected vehicles are still safe to drive as long as the driver has no other keys or fobs attached to the key ring when the car key is in the ignition. If any weight is pulling on the car key, the ignition switch can turn off--suddenly grinding the engine to a halt and disabling the air bags. This can happen while a car is in motion, even at highway speeds.
A U.S. senator is asking GM to tell its customers as soon as possible not to drive the recalled vehicles at all, arguing that they are completely unsafe. He has also urged the automaker to provide compensation to the victims of car accidents related to the defective switches.
When companies sell dangerous or defective products here in Nashville or anywhere else in the U.S., they need to be held accountable. In an ideal situation, these products are taken off the market and out of consumers' hands before anyone is hurt. When an individual is injured or killed because of a dangerous consumer product, the manufacturer of that product is responsible to compensate the victim or his or her loved ones.
The cases involving Toyota and GM are particularly disturbing because the companies appear to have actively made decisions not to recall these vehicles in time to save lives. This week, Toyota was fined $1.2 billion to settle a criminal investigation into its handling of safety complaints. Many of the wrongful death and personal injury claims against Toyota are still pending settlement. It remains to be seen what penalties GM will face. Those who have been harmed as a result of these defects should consider seeking legal counsel.