Philly crash victim battles back from problems in GM car

Listen
 This April 1, 2014 file photo shows the steering wheel and ignition switch on a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Alexandria, Va. General Motors’ recent recall of 2.6 million small cars has shed light on an unsettling fact: Air bags might not always deploy when drivers _ and federal regulators _ expect them to. (Molly Riley/AP Photo)

This April 1, 2014 file photo shows the steering wheel and ignition switch on a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Alexandria, Va. General Motors’ recent recall of 2.6 million small cars has shed light on an unsettling fact: Air bags might not always deploy when drivers _ and federal regulators _ expect them to. (Molly Riley/AP Photo)

Lawsuits against General Motors over faulty ignition switches are seeking class-action status.   A Philadelphia driver is suing, saying the problem kept vital safety equipment from deploying.

Jacqueline Gilbert of Port Richmond was 25 when the airbags in her Chevy Cobalt didn’t deploy in a major crash.

“Her vehicle left the road and, unfortunately, none of the airbags deployed,’ said Nancy Winkler, Gilbert’s attorney. “She suffered brain injury, she was in a coma for 15 days and has permanent injuries.” 

The case is one being linked to ignition-switch problems that would allow some GM cars to turn off while in motion, which disables the airbags. Gilbert doesn’t remember what happened in the crash, Winkler said. She’s undergone months of physical rehab, and she still constantly forgets things.

“She needs to have prompts and reminders and works very hard to keep her life, making sure she gets to places on time and using aids to help her remember things as well,” Winkler said. “This is something that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.”

Now through the agonizing process of relearning how to read, bathe and dress, Gilbert works at the same rehab where she was treated. She is part of a national civil suit against General Motors which says it first heard of the ignition switch problem 11 years before it recalled affected vehicles. At least 15 GM employees have been fired for their role in the delay.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.