When families in Wisconsin, or anywhere in the nation, lose a family member in a fatal car accident, it’s understandable that surviving loved ones would want information about how the accident occurred. Not all car accident fatalities are the result of another driver. According to a recent law suit against General Motors, at least 13 fatalities across the country may be attributed to defective vehicles.

GM has admitted to installing faulty ignition switches in as many as 1.6 million vehicles. According to reports, the faulty devices were used over a decade ago, but the manufacturer waited over ten years to issue a recall. In that time, at least 31 accidents – 13 involving fatalities – occurred as a result of the issue. According to reports, one problem with the switch is that airbags don’t deploy appropriately, leading to increased chances of a fatality during an accident.

The switch was installed in compact cars such as the Cobalt and Saturn Ion. One agency involved in the lawsuit and investigation accused the manufacturer of making the choice to use the bad switches in order to save money. A review of the costs associated with the switches indicates that the company only saved 25 cents per installation, however.

Agencies allege that GM reviewed two designs for the part in 2001 and chose the faulty design. According to reports, GM began using the superior design in 2006 as a replacement part, but it didn’t inform anyone and hid the choice by using the same serial number on the part.

According to reports, in 2005, a 16-year-old girl was killed in an accident when an airbag didn’t deploy appropriately. This caused a review of the part, but GM decided not to make a change at that time. Reports indicate that making such a change would have added $1 to the cost of each car manufactured.

At this time, experts believe GM will settle what has become a class action suit out of court. For family members who lost loved ones already, answers are a much needed, if poor, consolation. For anyone involved in a car accident that could be related to faulty parts or manufacturing, understanding legal rights and how class-action procedures integrate into individual cases, is important to overall outcomes.

The Fiscal Times, “GM Risked Lives to Save 25 Cents Per Car” Eric Pianin, Apr. 17, 2014