This week it was announced that the American auto maker, General Motors Corporation, may face criminal charges brought by the federal government for crimes involving the company’s failing to issue a product recall for ignition switches that were known to be defective and dangerous.
GM’s decision to keep silent and not recall its cars even though their ignition switches were dangerous has been determined by the Department of Justice to be at the level of criminal bad acts and it’s expected that there will be formal federal charges filed as a result.
For more on the GM ignition switch scandal and what it may mean if you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an accident involving a GM car, see our earlier posts on the subject like this one.
Criminal Charges vs. Civil Injury Claims Against a Company
For those who have been hurt by a faulty GM ignition switch, or by any other kind of product manufactured by a company for that matter, it’s important to understand the distinction between a criminal proceeding based upon the wrongdoing by the company and the ability of an individual victim of that greedy company to get justice and financial help and relief based upon a personal injury claim brought against it.
When the Justice Department proceeds against General Motors, federal criminal statutes will be the basis for their action. If and when they succeed, punishment will be assessed based upon those federal laws. Fines are a part of the criminal justice system of punishment. However, fines are not the same as damages awarded to an injured person.
When someone is hurt by a product, like the defective ignition switch in a GM car, or where someone is killed by the product’s failure, then state laws come into play to protect and help them. In Illinois and Indiana, there are state laws as well as state court case precedent that work together to help these victims.
Wrongful death laws are in place that can be the basis of a grieving family seeking justice in Indiana or Illinois after a defective product like a failed ignition switch has caused the accident that resulted in the death of their loved one.
Personal injury laws, such as product liability and gross negligence provisions, are in place to help injury victims obtain damages and justice from the company whose attitude of “profits over people” resulted in allowing a dangerous product into the marketplace and ultimately causing the accident or crash where the victim was seriously injured.
When there are lots and lots of victims of a product defect, like the GM ignition switch, then they may advance alone in their claims or choose to join together with other victims in a “class action” lawsuit against the company.
Company That Puts Profits Over People Can Be Sued for Justice
Bottom line, laws exist in this country to make corporations that choose to make money over keeping people safe answer for their bad choices. They must answer to the American public in criminal cases (like those filed by the Justice Department) and they must face their victims in civil courtrooms.
Criminal proceedings are good, but they are a separate attack on wrongdoing from a civil personal injury lawsuit where the injured person seeks monetary relief and financial help from those who have caused their harm.