Earlier this year, General Motors came under fire after it was revealed that the company likely knew about a dangerous defect in two of its popular models but decided to stay mum on the matter. As a result at least 12 people died when the ignition switch defect caused their cars to suddenly stall and prevented air bags from deploying properly.

Since then, GM has recalled millions of vehicles for this problem and other issues, but it is too late for the families who lost loved ones in these preventable accidents. Now their only recourse is filing wrongful death claims in effort to be compensated for the losses they sustained as well as hold the automaker responsible. 

Some members of Congress say that they want to avoid a similar event from happening in the future by strengthening vehicle safety laws and giving the federal regulator of these laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more power.

Under the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act, the NHTSA would be given greater authority to hand down punishments to automakers that violate laws, automakers would be required to release more information on potentially dangerous auto defects and the public would have greater access to this information.

GM’s faulty ignition switches are hardly the first time an automaker has put the public in danger by releasing a vehicle equipped with unsafe parts. In fact, many automakers have been sued in countless product liability cases for defective auto parts such as seatbelts, airbags, tires and door latches.

Manufacturers have a duty to prevent dangerous or defective products from hitting the marketplace, and if they do, manufacturers can be held civilly (and sometimes criminally) liable for the damages the products cause.

Source: Auto News, “House bill proposes tougher auto safety rules,” Ryan Beene, Sept. 18, 2014