Recently, a Texas woman's criminal record was expunged after a lawyer for GM admitted that it could have been a faulty ignition, rather than the woman's driving, that caused her 2004 Saturn Ion to veer off the road and run into a tree outside of Dallas several years ago. He fiancé, tragically, died as a result of the accident.
At the time, the woman was accused of criminally negligent homicide in causing the accident. She would later plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years’ probation, taxed with court costs, ordered to serve 260 hours of community service, and was required to pay the costs of her fiancé's funeral.
Information released by GM in early 2014 stated that the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion (and several other GM vehicles) can switch the key to switch to the off or accessory position unbeknownst to the driver.
When this occurs, the engine can shut off, as can most electrical components in the car. In addition to the 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, certain Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s, Pontiac Pursuits, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac Solstices and Saturn Skys may also share the ignition switch issue.
Why Criminal Charges Were Filed
As previously stated, the woman was driving her 2004 Saturn Ion with her fiancé in the passenger seat. Since there did not seem to be any external cause for the accident, the woman was accused of operating the car in an illegal manner which caused the fatal crash. She was severely injured in the crash, and her fiancé was killed. GM now admits that the accident may have happened because the car in which the couple was riding was one of the 2.6 million cars recalled.
How the Recall Affected the Criminal Case
Since the defect causes a car to stall and disables features such as brakes and power steering, an affected vehicle can be extremely difficult to control. Even the air bags can be shut off as a result of the flaw. Not surprisingly, the air bags did not deploy when the woman and her fiancé crashed, even though they hit a tree. The attorney for GM told the criminal court in a letter that the non-deployment of the airbags in the woman's Saturn Ion may have been a result of the recall issue.
In a separate suit, the woman and her fiancé's family sought financial compensation from GM for the personal injuries and wrongful death resulting from the accident. The suit was voluntarily dismissed after the parties agreed to settle the claims through the compensation program set up by GM for victims of ignition switch crashes. Several dozen wrongful death claims have been settled thus far, and hundreds more are pending.
Getting Help after Losing a Loved One in an Accident
If your loved one has been the victim of a wrongful death, call the legal team at Godsey Martin at 877-GOTHIT to discuss your options or to set up an appointment. Their many years of experience has equipped them to deal with complex cases involving multiple parties.
The sooner you call us, the more thorough job they can do with the investigation phase of your case. Do not delay in making this important call!