New York residents may be aware that millions of vehicles have been recalled recently by both domestic and foreign car makers. The recalls were ordered after safety defects including faulty ignition switches and dangerous airbags were connected with a number of fatal accidents, and experts now say that these issues may also be to blame for crashes originally thought to have been caused by negligent driving.

A 25-year-old woman was released from jail on Aug. 26 when a Pennsylvania judge concluded that the crash that claimed the life of her passenger was caused by a faulty ignition switch in her Chevrolet Cobalt. The problem prompted General Motors to recall 2.6 million vehicles in February 2014. Some legal experts believe that many more criminal convictions stemming from car accidents involving vehicles covered by the recalls will be challenged.

The situation has been made more difficult by automakers and the criminal justice system. Vehicle manufacturers have been criticized widely for not disclosing safety issues in a timely manner, and law enforcement agencies and prosecutors often fail to investigate questionable accidents thoroughly and have been accused of dismissing accounts of malfunctioning vehicles too quickly. The cases involved also reveal that many drivers entered guilty pleas in return for more lenient treatment when it became clear that their stories were unlikely to be believed by a jury.

Personal injury attorneys could seek to avoid pursuing a lawsuit against the wrong defendant by conducting their own investigation into an automobile accident, and checking to see if the vehicles involved were covered by any safety recalls may be a part of such an investigation. An attorney may also file lawsuits on behalf of accident victims against both auto manufacturers and motorists when the vehicle involved in a crash had a safety defect and was being driven negligently.