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Wisconsin families sue General Motors for deadly 2006 car crash

Timing is important in all legal challenges, yet perhaps the most crucial component for anyone bringing a claim against a corporation is establishing when that defendant's liability first occurred. A new lawsuit filed in Hennepin County, Wisconsin, illustrates that point brilliantly and could mark the beginning of a multitude of other legal challenges to the American automaker General Motors.

In October 2006, three Wisconsin teens were traveling in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt and had an accident, which led to the driver of the vehicle sustaining permanent brain injuries and caused the deaths of two other passengers. According to the victim's surviving families, GM knew that the car contained a defective ignition switch prior to the accident, yet failed to warn them about it. A later investigation found it possible for that same ignition switch to render the car's steering and braking systems inoperative, in addition to disabling the airbags.

GM declared bankruptcy after they sold the car to the victim in 2005. Under the terms of that agreement, GM is exempt from liability for accidents which occurred prior to when the bankruptcy settlement took effect in July 2009. Essentially, what that means is that claims made against GM prior to July 2009 are awarded from a trust left over from the previously structured company, not from the current GM as it is today.

The parents of the injured teenagers are arguing in their lawsuit that GM forfeited those bankruptcy protections when it hid the facts about the faulty ignition switch for over 10 years, well prior to the bankruptcy and within the time frame in which they purchased the Chevy Cobalt.

If you had similar experiences with one of the 1.6 million vehicles GM has now recalled you may want to explore whether GM committed fraud by remaining silent about a known defect to your vehicle. You may have legal options available.

Source: 5 Eyewitness News, "Families in Western Wis. Crash that Killed 2 Teens Sue GM" Leslye Dyste, Mar. 23, 2014

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