Imagine losing a beloved family member under somewhat suspicious circumstances and then having your inquiries denied for more than a decade. This might be the reality that some face when their family members are involved in military special operations or the CIA. In those cases, silence and secrecy are likely matters of national security.
But this should not be what happens when a loved one's death was the result of a car accident. Unfortunately, that's precisely what happened to one family affected by the General Motors ignition switch scandal. They lost their mother in a car accident in 2003, yet were not informed that her death was related to the vehicle defect until they were recently contacted by the New York Times.
When GM officials testified before Congress earlier this year, they said that the company was aware of at least 13 car accident deaths related to the defect - the earliest of which dated back to 2003. But the families of these victims were not notified by GM that they were included in the company's internal tally of deaths.
Last May, the New York Times reported the identities of 12 of the 13 victims. And earlier this month, the Times reported that the first such victim was an 81-year-old Connecticut woman. After receiving no answers as to the cause of the accident, the family was left to believe that she had suffered a stroke before crashing into a tree.
Because the woman's family was not informed about her connection to the ignition switch defect until recently, family members did not even know they were eligible for at least $1 million from the victim compensation fund set up by GM. They were finally informed about this by the New York Times, and now they have just weeks to file their claim before the year-end deadline.
In light of all this, a statement released by General Motors is almost laughable. The company said: "Our goal is to be just and timely in compensating all of the families who lost loved ones and those who suffered serious physical injury."
Losing a loved one in a preventable accident is bad enough. But keeping families in the dark about the cause of the accident and their legal options adds insult to injury. We must hope that all victims and their families are able to hold GM accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Source: The New York Times, "11 Years Later, Woman's Death Is Tied to G.M. Ignition Defect," Rachel Abrams, Nov. 10, 2014