Some would say this has been a hard year for auto giant General Motors. Times have been even more difficult, however, for those consumers directly affected by the series of safety issues that have plagued the company, caused car accidents and prompted millions of recalls. The recalls affected several models, including Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions, Pontiac G5s, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac Solstices and Saturn Skys, primarily those manufactured from 2003 to 2007.
Loss in vehicle value aside, an ignition switch flaw in the vehicles has been linked to more than 30 deaths and instances of bodily injury. A federal judge in New York has slated the first of many trials for 2016 and those close to the lawsuit claim there was evidence that certain employees knew about the dangers posed by the ignition switch flaw for the last ten years, a full decade before the recalls were initiated.
According to the announcement finally made by GM earlier this year, the ignition switch may slip out of position when jostled, cutting power to and disabling life-saving devices – including air bags, steering capabilities, and brakes. Plaintiffs’ attorneys hope the ruling in this first case will set a favorable precedent for those to follow.
In lieu of suing, some of those affected are opting to settle. In fact, many of the personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits stemming from this particular issue have already settled, with the families of persons who perished as a result of the faulty switches getting at least $1 million, if not more, according to USA Today.
The number of individuals seeking compensation for fatal car accidents already numbered 125 as of September 15 and that number is only expected to rise. Reparation applications will be accepted by GM through December of this year but those who accept payment offers must also agree to waive their right to sue.
Still, despite the battle GM is currently embroiled in, millions of defective cars are still on the roads. Facing the very real reality that more car accidents might result, this month GM began offering motorists incentives for proactively turning their cars in for repairs: a $25 gift card to one of seven assorted retailers including Amazon, AMC Theaters, Applebee’s, Bass Pro Shops, Red Robin, Starbucks and Walmart.
It’s predicted that the limited time offer (which only applies to certain models and is available only to vehicles repaired this month) might not be particularly effective, however, since long waits for repairs are, in many cases, more responsible than owner inaction. For some owners, the offer is an insult in the face of inconvenience.
The latter is a mindset that reflects yet another problem — some motorists do not yet fully appreciate the risks associated with the defect. Having faced similar issues during previous recalls, some lawmakers are calling for more stringent measures that would fully capture owners’ attention and highlight the seriousness of the matter. The New York Post reports that Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, feels that the “strongest motivator for affected drivers to get their cars fixed would be a ban on driving unrepaired cars — a measure G.M. has vigorously resisted.”