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The Hunt for Black Boxes from Wrecked GM Vehicles

Tina Robinson2 years ago

As legal proceedings against General Motors in connection the ignition switch recall begins to heat up, the Wall Street Journal says lawyers on both sides are “racing” to retrieve black boxes from wrecked vehicles.

About the Black Box Recorders

The black boxes, referred to within the auto industry as “even data recorders” contain vital information about a vehicle during an accident. Data from the boxes can indicate the car’s speed, throttle and brake position, airbag status, and the position of the ignition switch. All of that information – especially the ignition switch position – can be vital in proving liability.

Although car owners ultimately own the black box as well, GM maintains the right to access the data in the event of crashes, legal proceedings, and if the information was requested by police or government agencies.

Ignition Switch Position

The position of the ignition switch at the time of the crash is perhaps the most important piece of data contained in the black boxes. The 2.6 million older compact cars recalled by GM earlier this year have defective ignition switches that can be moved out of the “run” position while running and result in engine stalls and disabling of safety features such as airbags, power steering, and power brakes. GM has acknowledged 13 deaths and 54 crashes related to the defect.

An internal report released last week revealed that for more than a decade, engineers within GM failed to recognize that a loss of engine power would also disable airbags under certain circumstances. The failure to understand that connection is troubling because the switches were intentionally designed to be that way to avoid deployment in parked vehicles.

Victims’ Compensation

Independent analysis of crash data and safety regulators have said the 13 deaths recognized by GM is likely to grow over time. Lawyers say they have several hundred clients who were seriously injured or had loved one killed in accidents involving the recalled vehicles.

One option for victims is a GM compensation fund that was announced last week. GM has asked attorney Ken Feinberg to make recommendations about a compensation fund; those recommendations are expected at the end of this month. GM expects to begin taking claims as soon as Aug. 1. 

Thomas J. Henry is representing more than 1,000 GM recall victims across the United States and has been investigating injuries and deaths linked to the recall since day one. The firm launched a nationwide media investigation into the recall in April, which brought forth thousands of affected individuals who had information critical to the investigation – information that the firm has handed over to federal agencies also investigating GM’s sluggish response the recall. As more and more individuals have flocked to Thomas J. Henry for representation, the firm has continued to push GM for a victim settlement fund. The firm has had several talks with GM’s victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg regarding appropriate victim compensation for the thousands affected by a fatal design flaw in ignition switches which left numerous dead and countless others seriously injured. 

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