NHTSA Blamed for GM Defects by Congress

Early September 2014, Congress published a report that apportioned the blame for GM faulty ignition switch-related deaths to both GM and to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The report, issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the NHTSA missed several opportunities to identify and address the safety hazard.

NHTSA Blamed for GM Defects in Congressional Report

The report noted that the NHTSA had the opportunity to review an accident report form 2007 in which an officer noticed the faulty ignition switch. The NHTSA also reviewed and had access to an independent report about the aforementioned crash that pinpointed the faulty ignition switch’s low torque as the primary cause of the accident.

Congress said that the NHTSA either overlooked or didn’t fully understand the reports. Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Tim Murphy summarized: “NHTSA too suffered from a lack of accountability, poor information sharing, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the vehicles, all which contributed to the failure to identify and fix this deadly defect.”

The NHTSA’s primary purpose is to promote roadway safety.

  • They regulate motor vehicle safety.
  • They keep consumers informed of dangers and recalls.
  • They help minimize the number of traffic crashes.


In the report about the GM ignition switch defects, Congress essentially questioned the NHTSA’s fulfillment of this role.

The NHTSA’s Defense

After the NHTSA was blamed for the GM defects, the agency contended that GM hindered the agency’s efforts and withheld information that would have assisted its investigation. Some evidence being brought to light seems to support the NHTSA’s stance. For instance, a former U.S. attorney’s investigation of the issue revealed that “cultural issues” within GM led to a long delay in recalling the vehicles.

Another mistake on GM’s behalf was that it reportedly upgraded the faulty switch without giving it a new part number and without informing the NHTSA about it. The company’s failure to report to the agency resulted in GM having to pay the NHTSA a $35 million fine. 

GM employees might have tried to delay or avoid a recall because the recall would have been massive and costly. As a result of all the evidence, GM has suspended at least two engineers involved with the ignition switch errors.

Help for Victims of GM Car Accidents

Tim Murphy, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee commented, “Both GM and NHTSA had a responsibility to act, and both share culpability in this safety failure.”

But while the NHTSA was blamed for the GM defects – at least partly – it’s GM that is responsible for paying victims damages. Accident victims have several options for recourse. Firstly, GM has begun a compensation fund for victims of accidents caused by ignition-switch malfunctions.

Also, victims or their families may be able to file suit against GM to recover damages. It’s a good idea to speak with a local injury or wrongful death attorney in Pennsylvania to determine which options might be best for you.

Legal Help for Accident Victims in Pennsylvania

To speak with a lawyer in Pennsylvania about filing a claim or suit after an accident, call our legal team at Cordisco & Saile LLC.  Contact us today to schedule a free evaluation at 215-642-2335, and let’s chart a course of action to help you and your family obtain the financial compensation you deserve.