WSJ looks at who the auto bailouts really left behind

According to The Wall Street Journal, Chrysler's post-bailout restructuring allowed it to effectively erase any responsibility for car accident victims. Two years after the $12.5-billion auto industry bailouts, families like the one Vicki Denton left behind are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The WSJ reports that Ms. Denton was killed in a head-on collision in which the airbag in her 1998 Dodge Caravan failed to deploy. A court ordered Chrysler to pay Denton's son and surviving relatives $2.2 million in damages, but that was just before the bailout hit. Since Chrysler is no longer under any obligation to the family because the bailout measures absolved Chrysler from its liabilities, the Dentons will almost certainly never see their money and have no legal recourse to get it.

The Chrysler case isn't unique. The same rings true at General Motors, where a $50-billion bailout and restructuring left asbestos victims, laid off dealers and accident victims without any way to secure their damages. Beyond the unfairness of the deal, some experts suggest paying accident victims wouldn't have been out of the question.

Those who coordinated the bailouts maintain that in situations like the ones at GM and Chrysler, full recompense simply isn't possible for everyone. As far as the courts are concerned, there is standing legal precedent to allow for such omissions during a bankruptcy restructuring.

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