GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit

General motors is facing lawsuits over its defective ignition switches, which can slip from the "On" position and cut power to the vehicle while it's moving.

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GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit

GM is fighting injury and death lawsuits, claiming that their ignition switches are not to blame for crashes.

GM began recalling 2.6 million vehicles in 2014 due to ignition switch problems that could cause vehicles to inadvertently slip out of the “run” position, cutting engine power and leading to crashes. Some within GM knew about the problem as early as 2001 yet the recall was delayed for 13 years.

Crash victims and their families are suing GM for personal injuries and wrongful deaths related to the faulty ignition switches. Other ignition switch lawsuits seek compensation for vehicle depreciation.

GM has paid nearly $7 billion in recall-related costs but is fighting remaining injury and death lawsuits, claiming that their ignition switches are not to blame for crashes. It is also settling cases out of court to avoid the exposure and possible huge damage awards that a jury trial could bring. To date, GM has paid nearly $2 billion in penalties and settlements.

Were you injured after an ignition switch malfunction in your recalled GM vehicle? Do you have questions about your legal rights or want help filing a lawsuit? can help.

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The GM Ignition Switch Recall: A Snapshot of What Went Wrong

Credit: NBC Nightly News

The ignition switch activates a vehicle’s electrical system and starts the car when the key is turned.

Most ignition switches have settings for “Lock,” “Accessory (ACC),” “On,” and “Start.” In a normal functioning ignition switch, the key remains in the “On” position when the car is running. With the defective GM ignition switches, however, a part called a “detent plunger” was made to improper specifications, allowing the switch to slip to the “ACC” position when the ignition key is accidentally struck, or on rough terrain.

When the ignition is in the “ACC” position, a vehicle’s engine, power steering, anti-lock brake system, and airbags are disabled. This can not only cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle, but it can also prevent safety systems, including the airbag, from working when they are needed most. At least 124 people were injured and another 275 killed in GM vehicles with defective switches.

GM detected the ignition switch defect in 2001 and again in 2005 but issued a “service bulletin” to dealers rather than ordering a recall.

GM detected the ignition switch defect in 2001 and again in 2005 but issued a “service bulletin” to dealers rather than ordering a recall. It also held back information from federal authorities that may have led to a recall sooner.

After finally issuing a recall in 2014, GM was fined $35 million by the Department of Transportation for failure to report a safety defect in a timely manner and $900 million by the Department of Justice for concealing a potentially deadly defect.

GM CEO Mary Barra blamed the delayed recall on a “cost culture” and denied that there was a cover-up. She also said GM was working hard to improve its safety culture. GM's damning internal audit exposed the cluelessness that caused the problem to spiral from a cheap and easy fix to a hugely expensive and deadly fiasco.

No GM executives faced criminal charges for the recall fiasco, although it suspended engineers involved in the incident. Technically, it is not illegal to sell a car with a defect that can kill people.

GM paid $575 million through a compensation fund to victims of GM ignition switch crashes. Fewer than 10% of people who made claims to the fund received payment.

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Types of GM Ignition Switch Lawsuits

GM is not out of the woods yet over the recall. The automaker still faces hundreds of lawsuits that seek compensation for ignition switch-related losses, including the following lawsuit types:

  • Personal injury lawsuits, stemming from accidents in GMs with defective ignition switches.
  • Wrongful death lawsuits, filed by survivors on behalf of a family member who died in a crash caused by a faulty GM ignition switch.
  • Class action lawsuits, seeking compensation for vehicle depreciation in connection with the ignition switch recall.

The 234 GM ignition switch injury and wrongful death lawsuits are centralized in New York federal court. Of six early “bellwether” trials (the first of many similar cases to be tried, which helps defendants decide whether they should settle remaining cases or dispute them in a trial), three went in GM’s favor, while the other half were settled confidentially with the plaintiff. The remaining trials are scheduled to begin mid-2017.

Lawsuit Allegations

Plaintiffs seeking compensation from GM over defective ignition switches make numerous misconduct claims against the automaker, including that it:

  • Designed, manufactured, assembled, tested, and sold vehicles in a defective condition
  • Offered to the public unreasonably dangerous vehicles that presented a risk of harm
  • Inadequately tested and inspected vehicles
  • Failed to implement adequate quality control measures
  • Did not provide sufficient warnings about a defect that it knew about or should have known about
  • Breached its duties to consumers
  • Negligence
  • Caused injuries, deaths, and financial losses as a result of these acts and omissions

Possible Compensation

Depending on the actual circumstances of the case, a GM ignition switch lawsuit can potentially provide compensation for losses that include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and/or lost earning capacity
  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of consortium
  • Property damage/loss of vehicle value

GM has already paid $575 million to injury and death victims via a compensation fund that is no longer accepting claims. Victims received as little as a few thousand dollars and as much as a few million dollars. Some examples of compensation fund death payments are:

  • 17-year-old student, no wages, no dependents: $2.2 million.
  • 25-year-old, making $46,000 a year, married, two children: $4 million.
  • 40-year-old, earning $75,000 a year, married, no children: $5.1 million.

Injury payments through the fund ranged from $20,000 to $500,000 depending on the length of hospitalization.

Victims who accepted compensation from the fund are not eligible to sue GM.

Lawsuit Eligibility

You may be eligible to file a GM ignition switch lawsuit if:

  • You were injured in a crash involving a faulty GM ignition switch
  • You lost a loved one in an ignition switch crash
  • You own a GM vehicle with a defective ignition switch that depreciated in value as a result of the recall
  • You did not accept payment through the GM compensation fund

If your situation isn’t described here, but you think you have cause for legal action, be sure to speak with us.

Find Out Whether You Have a Case is speaking with victims of defective GM ignition switches and helping them to understand their legal rights and options. Get answers to your questions and learn how you can hold GM accountable during a free case review. It costs nothing unless we win a jury award or settlement for you.

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