As we alluded to a few days ago, one of the great untold stories (now startiing to be told), of the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies is that under both plans, families driving any of these cars (about 10 million Chrysler, 30 million GM vehicles now on the road), whose occupants are severely injured in a collision (or otherwise) because the car was not made safely, will have no recourse against the company.
Under the Chrysler bankruptcy, warranties will be honored and money is set aside to cover replacement of defective car parts. However, if the part causes an accident or leads to a catastrophic injury or death, the company is off the hook.(Click here for video news story.)
It is estimated that every year, there are about 500 to 1,000 serious injuries or deaths due to cars that are designed or built with defects. The rights of all of these men, women and children are extinguished under the Chrysler and GM bankruptcy plans. Some of these defects include:
• seatbelts that fail and strangle children;
• seat backs that collapse and cause brain injury;
• unstable vehicles that flip and roofs that cave, crushing occupants;
• cars with gears that “self-shift” from park to reverse and run someone over; and
• gasoline tanks or brake fluid containers that are improperly positioned and catch fire or explode, severely burning or killing the occupants.
Victims and families from five states, some with catastrophic injuries, will be coming down to Washington on Wednesday asking Congress for urgent help. They are having a news conference at 11 am on Capitol Hill. Here's what consumers should know: other car companies can still be held accountable for making unsafe cars but Chrysler or GM cannot.
There are things that Congress could do to help:
• Ensure that Chrysler and Fiat - and GM - accept responsibility for existing products (successor liability).
• Develop a victims’ fund that would allow current and future injured consumers to proceed with their cases; this money could be accessed only after a claim is resolved successfully.
• Purchase a retroactive insurance policy purchased to cover past, present and future injury claims.
Let’s hope Congress is listening. Otherwise, drive these cars at your own risk!