GM’s ignition switch recall could free convicted drivers

When General Motors announced the recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches in February 2014, the automaker potentially provided grounds for the exoneration of many drivers who had previously been blamed for deadly crashes. As a result, courts in Missouri and nationwide will likely see a wave of “the ignition switch made me do it” cases in the coming months and years, according to legal experts.

So far, four people have cited GM’s ignition switch recall as proof of their innocence. In August, the lawyers of a Pennsylvania woman successfully petitioned a judge to vacate her guilty plea for a 2010 car accident that killed her teenage friend. The woman claimed the crash occurred because the brakes and steering on her Chevrolet Cobalt suddenly stopped working, but she pleaded guilty to manslaughter on her mother’s advice. Her lawyers say that GM’s recall provides proof she didn’t cause the crash, and they are asking for a finding of “actual innocence.”

In Texas, a man was facing 20 years in prison for a deadly 2011 head-on collision before GM’s recall cleared his name. The defendant lost control of his mother’s 2007 Saturn near Houston and struck an oncoming pickup truck, killing its driver. Prosecutors charged him with reckless driving, but a private investigator hired by his lawyers was able to trace the incident back to GM’s faulty ignition switch. The charges were dropped. Both the defendant and the pickup driver’s family are now suing GM.

Missouri residents who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another party, such as a negligent driver or automaker, may want to meet with an attorney to explore the available remedies. After a review of the accident investigation reports and other evidence, the attorney may recommend filing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party seeking compensation for damages.