General Motors has issued more recalls so far in 2014 due to suspected automotive defects than in the history of the company. As CNN reports, there have now been 29 separate recalls that cover 13.8 million vehicles in the U.S. and 15.8 million worldwide.
To put the recalls in perspective: The number of vehicles recalled by GM, including cars and trucks, exceeds the number of cars that the company has sold within the U.S. in the last five years, or 12.1 million. Evidence that GM may have improperly delayed the recall has resulted in the beleaguered car company being fined $35 million.
The large number of faulty vehicles is a major concern for the car company, as well as for motorists who may own or drive GM vehicles. As when any product recall is issued, a concern is whether the GM recalls may have come too late for persons who were possibly injured due to the defects.
GM Faces Hefty Fine
The first of the recalls that occurred in 2014 involved around 800,000 vehicles with an ignition switch problem. The recall was initiated in February of 2014. This problem led to GM’s $35 million fine.
According to USA Today, the fine will be paid to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is the maximum penalty that can be assessed. It is part of a consent agreement that also includes an agreement by the car company to make “significant and wide-ranging internal changes” into how safety issues are monitored.
GM will be required to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration full access to the company’s internal investigation on the recall delays related to the faulty ignition switch. The Justice Department is also considering criminal charges against GM.
GM entered into the consent agreement in light of ample evidence that it was aware as far back as 2001 that the ignition switch could move unexpectedly out of “run” and into “accessory.” Not only could this turn the engine off as someone was driving, but it also could kill power steering and disable the airbags. At least 12 fatalities and 46 injuries have been linked to the faulty ignition switch within the U.S.
While the faulty ignition switch problem was the deadliest of the defects that have prompted the massive recalls, it was not the only issue with GM cars. Just recently, the company recalled Silverados, Sierras and Tahoes because of steering problems.
What Can Defective Product Victims Do?
Victims injured by defects in vehicles may be able to make a product liability claim against the vehicle manufacturer. Those injured by defective products can pursue a claim for damages regardless of negligence since strict liability rules apply when a product causes harm when it has been used as intended.
However, if the victims can demonstrate that a company was aware of dangerous safety defects and willfully hid the risk from consumers, this evidence could potentially lead to a punitive damages award.
Reuters reports that a U.S. bankruptcy judge who oversaw the car company’s bankruptcy in 2009 is now encouraging settlement talks between GM and plaintiffs who may bring claims related to the faulty ignition switches. However, it remains to be seen whether GM will voluntarily agree to compensate those affected.
Those who believe they have suffered harm due to defects that have prompted these recalls or due to any other product flaws should consult with an experienced attorney in order to learn more about their rights and options.