If a driver is killed in a crash, should her family be able to recover money damages if the car’s safety systems didn’t work properly to reduce her injuries? State laws dictate whether recovery is allowed when a driver is partially at fault. (In California, recovery is allowed.) However, the failure of critical safety systems to operate properly—such as airbags and seat belts—can be a real game-changer. We rely on those systems to mitigate the damage to our bodies whether a crash is due to faulty car parts or even driver error.
Consider the case of Tennessee nursing student Hasaya Chansuthus. After going to a party at her boyfriend’s house, Hasaya’s 2006 Chevy Cobalt sideswiped another car on the interstate. It then steered off the road to the right, striking a tree head-on.
Hasaya was driving the speed limit. She was also wearing her seat belt, but her airbags didn’t inflate even though they should have, and her seat belt didn’t lock. She was killed in the crash. The police report showed that her blood alcohol content was above the legal limit at the time of the crash.
Hasaya’s family was devastated. Her brother said that they had been “robbed” of her: “She didn’t have a chance. All the safety features that were supposed to keep her protected didn’t work.” Sadly, the family had lost their father just 12 years earlier in a car crash.
Not long after the crash, the family learned that others were alleging that Cobalt ignition switches were defective. The family was understandably upset with GM for not revealing the problem earlier. Just after GM finally issued a recall due to the defective switches in 2014, Hasaya’s brother explained, “We don’t want other families to go through what we had to go through. . . . It was very irresponsible of them if they had known about it all these years. We knew something was clearly wrong with it.”
It can be difficult to sort out all of the evidence after a bad crash. However, when a car’s safety system doesn’t work properly, a legal analysis is warranted even if a driver may have caused a crash, in whole or in part. As explained by the family’s lawyer: “The airbag is still supposed to deploy regardless of the reason for losing control of the vehicle.”
Unfortunately, the 2014 recall was too late for Hasaya and her family. However, a recent court ruling now allows new cases to be filed relating to crashes caused by defective GM switches.
If you or someone you love was badly hurt in a crash due to a defective GM switch, contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP today at 888.777.1776. We are a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury and products liability law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco, and we believe that families hurt by big companies should be compensated for their losses.