Death Toll from GM Ignition Switch Failure May Be Much Higher Than Stated

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) September 12, 2014 – The number of fatalities caused by defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles may be much greater than the 13 that GM itself has linked to the problem. 

A Reuters analysis of government data on fatal crashes indicates that there have been at least 74 deaths in GM cars with key similarities to the deaths already attributed to the faulty switches.

“It’s unsurprising that an independent observer is finding more deaths caused by the ignition switch defect than GM found,” said Paul Greenberg, a Chicago wrongful death attorney. “There is a long history of automobile manufacturers attempting to limit their liability.”

Reuters performed its analysis using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a national database of accident information collected from law enforcement sources. The news agency searched for fatal, single-car accidents in which the airbags did not deploy. Reuters compared the incidence of this type of crash in the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt, which were subject to GM’s recent recall of 2.6 million cars, with the incidence for similar cars manufactured by competitors.

The news agency found that the Ion was involved in this type of accident up to six times more often than other vehicles. There were 5.9 such fatal accidents per 100,000 Ions sold. The Cobalt had 4.1; the Ford Focus 2.9; the Honda Civic 1.6; and the Toyota Corolla 1.0.

Reuters noted that the crash data did not include information about whether the ignition switches in the vehicles involved in such crashes were defective, so it is possible that the air bags’ failure to deploy was caused by something other than defective switches. In accidents already linked to the faulty switches, the ignition switch turned off without warning, causing the vehicle to crash and the air bags to fail.

The news agency provided its analysis to GM and to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A representative of the NHTSA said that the agency believes that the death toll due to the ignition switch defect is likely higher than 13.

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