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GM investigated for hiding information about defective product

Most people generally do not expect to be at risk from the products they choose to use on a frequent basis. However, the reality is that there are many products that cause injury that remain on the market. Sometimes, the product maker is unaware of the risk of injury or harm until an incident occurs. However, in other cases, the maker is well aware of the risk posed by a defective product, but fails to disclose or warn due to profit motives.

Based on information obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it seems that the automaker General Motors may have been aware, for quite a long time, of the risk related to defective ignition switches in some of its vehicles. Several crashes have resulted from this defect, which causes a power loss to the vehicle. When the vehicle shuts down, it veers off the road and the front airbags do not deploy. These defects have resulted in deaths in several crashes involving front impacts. The automaker is now being criminally investigated by the Justice Department for allegedly failing to disclose or warn about the defect.

When a company produces, designs or manufactures a product that causes injury to a consumer, the company can be held liable for the injuries suffered or damages sustained. When companies are doing their job and focus on the safety of consumers, they will often issue a product recall. This warns consumers and the general public of the general risk, which can prevent further harm and give the company an opportunity to correct the problem and compensate consumers.

However, some companies choose to cover up the defect because they are worried about the effect a warning or product recall will have on their profit margins or their reputations. When companies fail to respond to protect public safety or actively work to obscure a known defect, consumers who are harmed by the product can file a products liability lawsuit in order to recover compensation for the harm caused by the product. Product liability lawsuits can be complicated, however, because they involve proving that a defect exists and establishing that the defect is the cause of the injury.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "GM avoided giving answers to death queries," Rebecca R. Ruiz and Danielle Ivory, July 15, 2014

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