General Motors told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it couldn't explain crashes that its own internal investigations had linked to problems related to defective ignition switches, the New York Times found through Freedom of Information Act requests. The most egregious case involves the death of a Texas man named Gene Erickson:
Mr. Erickson was riding in the front seat of a Saturn Ion driven by Candice Anderson in 2004. They were an hour from Dallas when the car suddenly drove into a tree.
A GM engineer determined that "the engine’s shutting off had most likely been the reason for the crash," but when regulators queried the company, it responded that "it had not assessed the cause of the accident," in the Times' telling. Even worse: The driver of the car had "a trace of Xanax in her system" and pleaded guilty to a charge of criminally negligent homicide even though, given what is now known, she may not have been at fault at all.
This year GM has recalled nearly 30 million cars, paid a $35 million fine to the federal government, and announced a settlement fund that will compensate victims, and the families of victims, who were injured and killed in defective vehicles.