NEW YORK – A news report posted on reuters.com states a woman was driving her silver Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV home when the SUV began to veer off of the road. The driver then tried to steer back onto the road, lost control of the vehicle, the SUV rolled onto its side and crashed into a ditch. The 42-year-old mother tragically died in the accident. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that a defective steering sensor caused the accident. The lawsuit also alleges that General Motors Co failed to sufficiently warn owners about the problem although the company had been aware of the issue for a long period of time.
According to the lawsuit, the steering sensor’s failure “disabled the Trailblazer’s electronic stability control,” which is a significant safety feature that is designed to prevent motor vehicle accidents. GM denies the allegations.
The case revived concerns about GM’s safety practices. Approximately seven years after GM pledged never to repeat a well-known failure to recall millions of motor vehicles with defective ignition switches that caused 124 deaths. The lawsuit also alleges that GM has long concealed issues with the steering sensor and that the issues increased the risk of a dangerous accident.
A Reuters investigation of hundreds of documents filed in the Buchanan case shows that GM has been aware of a series of problems with the steering sensor since 2007. In one document, there were high numbers of warranty claims, but no recall was initiated. Several key documents included depositions, were taken of General Motors employees, and findings from a 2018 internal GM investigation.
The 2018 GM internal investigation into the defective steering sensor was launched after receiving evidence in the wrongful death case. The GM probe found that there were about 73,700 warranty claims related to the steering sensor. The internal documents do not provide details about the specific issues established in the warranty claims.
The steering sensor is a crucial part of GM’s electronic stability control, called StabiliTrak. Similar to other systems, StabiliTrak manages the engine power and brakes to help drivers avoid losing control and having an accident. GM and federal regulators have praised electronic stability control as one of the most significant auto safety features since the seatbelt.
General Motors stated that the motor vehicles containing the steering sensor were built over a decade ago. The GM affected models containing the defective steering sensor are the 2006-2007 Buick Rainier; 2006-2009 Saab 9-7x; 2006-2009 Trailblazer and GMC Envoy; and 2006-2007 Isuzu Ascender.
Christa Zilincik, a GM investigator leading the probe, discovered GM had received 73,711 warranty claims linked to the steering wheel angle sensor. GM’s investigation also identified 5,861 complaints from customers related to the steering sensor.
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