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Families Sue GM After Teens Killed and Injured in Chevy Crash

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Since General Motors (GM) recalled over 1.6 million vehicles affected by faulty ignition switches, more families have come forward seeking justice. In 2006, three teenage girls were killed or injured when Chevrolet Cobalt crashed after the ignition switch slipped from “run” to the “accessory” position, disabling steering, breaking, and the airbag system. Their families have filed a new lawsuit in Wisconsin, each seeking over $50,000 in damages.

Girls Killed in Cobalt Crash

According to The Globe and Mail, nineteen-year-old Megan Phillips was driving the Cobalt when she lost control, “careened off the road and struck a telephone junction box and two trees.” In the car with her were 15-year-old Amy Rademaker and 18-year-old Natasha Weigel. Both were killed in the crash, while Phillips suffered permanent brain damage, as well as other injuries.

Court documents state that GM failed to warn customers of the issue with the ignition switch, and though they were aware of the problem, hid it from the general public for over ten years.

Problem Existed for Over a Decade

Early in 2014, GM recalled millions of vehicles because of ignition switch problems, including Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs, Saturn Ions and Skys, and Pontiac Pursuits and Solstices—all models released in 2007 or earlier. The company explained on their website that the vehicles carried a risk, under certain conditions, of automatically moving the ignition switch out of the run position. The result would be a partial loss of power to key systems, as well as to the engine.

NBC News reported that as early as 2001, GM knew of the problems with the switches, and actually tried to quietly fix the problem by making the opening in the keys smaller, to reduce the number of extra things a driver could attach to the keys. This was expected to reduce the risk of the ignition switch change, but the solution was never implemented.

It wasn’t until new CEO Mary Barra requested “a comprehensive internal safety review” that the issue came to light again, and was addressed by the recall.

Where was the NHTSA?

GM is now under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in New York, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Justice Department. So far, GM has admitted that the issues with the ignition switches were related to 13 deaths and 31 crashes, and has promised to cooperate fully with investigators.

Lawmakers feel that the NHTSA also bears some responsibility on the issue. According to Fox News, the association reviewed data in 2007 and in 2010 related to the problems with the ignition switches, yet failed to take action, stating the data were not sufficient to warrant a formal investigation.

The Fiscal Times recently reported that Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced a new bill “that would dramatically increase transparency in the reporting of accidents,” making it easier for the NHTSA to isolate vehicles that are causing issues. Among other things, the bill would require manufactures to send the association “copies of insurance claims made against them and lawsuits about fatal crashes in which they were defendants.”