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Car recalls could free jailed drivers

Ohio motorists may find it interesting that some drivers who had been blamed for deadly car wrecks are using the recent recalls by General Motors, Toyota and other automakers as grounds to challenge their convictions. According to legal experts, the trend is expected to grow over the coming months.

In late August, a Pennsylvania judge vacated the guilty plea of a young woman who spent three months in jail for a crash that killed her 16-year-old friend. In 2010, the woman, who was then 18, lost control of her Chevrolet Cobalt and crashed while driving home from school. The car's air bags did not deploy, and her passenger died instantly. The woman claimed the car's ignition switch was to blame for the crash, but she chose to plead guilty to reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter on the advice of her mother.

However, the woman's version of events got a boost when her vehicle was one of 2.6 million recalled by General Motors for faulty ignition switches in February 2014. Her lawyers were able to convince the judge to vacate her guilty plea. They are now seeking a finding of "actual innocence." Prosecutors are appealing the judge's decision.

So far, four convicted drivers have cited GM's recall and one has cited Toyota's recall as grounds for exoneration. Legal experts say that courts should expect a wave of drivers who have been jailed for mysterious car crashes to begin using this type of defense.

Ohio residents injured in a car accident caused by another party, such as a negligent driver or automaker, may benefit by consulting with an attorney. It may be advisable to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party seeking compensation for the damages that have been sustained.

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