More Air Bag Problems? Feds Investigating GM's Chevy Impala

Jul 26, 2014 09:57 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Federal regulators are investigating potentially faulty air bags in some Chevrolet Impala models after owners sued General Motors following a crash that resulted in fatal injuries.

On Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it launched the probe into some GM full-size vehicles based on a petition filed on behalf of a couple who were in a Chevy Impala with air bags that didn't deploy during a crash, the Associated Press reported.

Donald Friedman of Xprts, a company based in Santa Barbara, Calif., that studies car crashes, filed the petition in November for Roberto Martinez and his wife, Aurora Martinez. She was driving the couple's 2008 Chevy Impala when they were struck by an SUV that pushed the vehicle into a concrete highway divider and a fixed barrier.

The Impala's air bags reportedly did not deploy, and the elderly man suffered permanent brain injuries, said the couple's lawsuit against GM. Around 10 months after the accident, Roberto Martinez died.

According to Friedman, the weight sensor on the Impala's passenger side misread Roberto Martinez's weight when he was moved around during the accident. Air bags should deploy except for child-size passengers.

The NHTSA said that its initial review of the vehicles found no defects, but it will look further into the petition's request to investigate 320,000 Impalas from the 2007-'09 model years.

Already involved in a Justice Department investigation related to ignition switch problems, GM has issued recalls for around 30 million vehicles in the wake of a devastating recall for 2.6 million small cars linked to 13 deaths.

Additionally, automakers across the board have struggled with faulty air bags as more and more vehicles have been found to contain Takata-made air bags that can explode.

"However, in an abundance of caution regarding the performance of air bags in the nation's fleet, NHTSA is looking further into this allegation," the agency said Friday in a statement quoted by the AP.

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