07/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Chrysler & GM: What Happens if Your Car Blows Up?

I know I'll never forget that horrible sight,
I guess I found out for myself that everyone was right.
Won't come back from Dead Man's Curve.

-Jan and Dean

Dead Man's Curve was a song about hot rod drivers. Not all accidents are caused by driver error. Some cars are not designed or manufactured properly.

Ford Pinto's had exploding gas tanks. Over the years there have been a several cars with serious defects. People have died or been severely injured.

If you are driving a defective Chrysler, the bankruptcy courts have two words for you:

Drop Dead.

It looks like the courts is going to tell General Motors drivers the same thing.

I have a friend who is paralyzed for life because of a defective seat belt. Her medical bills are well over $100,000 a year. Another friend had three family members die because of a faulty gas tank.

The accidents happened several years ago. They went to court and won.

If it happened today, they wouldn't receive a penny.

We don't know how many defective cars are on the road. You don't know if you seat belt is defective unless you have been in an accident. Many times, like in the Ford Pinto case, it takes
years to figure out the problem.

I've also wondered if companies do what Ed Norton's character in Fight Club did: quietly pay claims instead of fixing car defects.

If Chrysler had been using Norton's business style, they just won the lottery. They can get out of billions of dollars in damages.

If your seat belt doesn't work on your Chrysler, you are out of luck. If your Jeep rolls over and your are paralyzed, you are out of luck too.

It looks like those driving GM cars are going to suffer a similar fate.

There are a lot of potential claims on the road.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission Filing, General Motors paid $1.1 billion in products liability claims in 2007 and $921 million in 2008.

Chrysler didn't go out of business. It will be owned by Fiat. Somehow Fiat wiggled out responsibility for Chrysler's actions. The United States government gave its blessing to the deal.

General Motors is owned by the taxpayers of the United States of America.

As part owner of the new General Motors, I'm unhappy about putting the screws to injured people.

Chrysler and General Motors have deluded us into bailing them out with the pretense that they will be making cars that we want to buy.

How many people are going to buy a Chrysler or GM car that doesn't own up to its errors? They can buy a Ford, Toyota or Honda whose company will pay when they make a mistake.

Hyundai has been helped by a marketing campaign which allows someone to return the car if they lose their job.

Hyundai has another edge now. If the car blows up, they will compensate the victims.

You can't say that about a Chrysler or a Buick.

We've spent billions paying for the mistakes that GM and Chrysler executives have made.

If a GM or Chrysler automobile maims or kills someone, we need to pay for those mistakes too.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement consulting firm, in Richmond, Kentucky.

He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at or read his award winning, syndicated column at He is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows.

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.