03/20/2014 08:33 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

GM ignition switch recall: Canadian lawsuits filed

A Canadian law firm is going after General Motors over the company's handling of a recall of defective ignition switches in 1.6 million cars globally, including 235,000 cars in Canada.

Merchant Law Group LLP is looking to represent and compensate Canadians who owned the affected cars, alleging "these vehicles suffer from a design defect which puts drivers at risk of the ignition switch moving from the “ON” position to the “OFF” position while driving," the firm said in a statement on its website.

The firm alleges the defect can result in a loss of a number of electrical systems, including electrical power, power-steering, brake-assist and even a loss of airbag function.

The recall affected various models of small cars with the defective switch, used between 2003 and 2007.

Merchant Law Group says it filed claims against the Detroit-based automaker on Wednesday in Ontario and Quebec courts.

GM announced last month that ignition switches in older models of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5s, Saturn Ion, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky need to be repaired.

Those are the vehicles that form the basis of the Canadian suit against General Motors.

U.S. lawmakers have launched a probe into GM's handling of the recall, and are demanding to know why the automaker took so long to issue a recall for the affected cars.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also reportedly looking into whether GM broke any laws in its slow response to the ignition switch problem.

On Monday, GM issued a new recall of 1.5 million larger vehicles, including 70,437 in Canada, because their side air bags, front centre air bags and seat belts may not work properly if drivers ignore a warning light on their dashboard.