By now, everyone has heard about the ignition switch problem that caused General Motors to recall millions of vehicles. The defect, which those at GM and the ignition switch manufacturer were aware of for at least a decade, disabled power steering, brakes and airbags. It has been linked to a number fatalities.
Now another death that occurred a decade ago has been linked to the defect. The woman behind the wheel has been vindicated after years of being blamed for the crash that killed her boyfriend. The then-21-year-old aspiring nurse, lost control of her Saturn Ion, drove off the road and hit a tree. Her 25-year-old boyfriend did not survive.
The woman, who was found to have drugs in her system, was blamed for the crash and the death of her boyfriend. She pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminally negligent homicide and was given five years' probation.
Now prosecutors and the state trooper who investigated the fatal crash say that it was the defective ignition switch, not the driver, that was to blame. Although the conviction is only now being overturned, it was determined back in 2007 that the car's power loss caused the airbags to fail to deploy. In fact, GM settled a lawsuit with the woman for $75,000. The money went towards paying her medical and legal bills and also to the children of the man who was killed.
She may be looking at a much larger settlement from the automaker in light of the legal vindication. As her attorney says, she "was called a murderer to her face" by people in her small town.
There's no telling how many accidents blamed on driver negligence or intoxication are in fact the result of a defect in the vehicle. That's why it's essential that anyone who believes that their car malfunctioned, regardless of other circumstances, seek legal guidance before accepting legal responsibility.
Source: CarBuzz.com, "10 Years and a Defective Ignition Switch Later, Saturn Ion Driver’s Homicide Conviction Overturned" Jay Traugott, Nov. 28, 2014