GM announces uncapped fund for ignition switch victims
After months of investigations and internal probes, General Motors (GM) announced how it intends to compensate the victims of the deadly ignition switch defect that killed at least 13. Kenneth Feinberg, a compensation expert hired by GM earlier this year, outlined the specifics of the plan and who is eligible.
Previous speculation and GM’s actions worried some that their claims wouldn’t be evaluated because the accident occurred after the automaker filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Feinberg, whose past victims’ funds experience includes 9/11, Boston marathon bombing and the shooting at Virginia Tech, told the media there are no time exclusions.
Additionally, the current death tally for the faulty switch doesn’t include victims who were in the backseat of the wrecked vehicle, but Feinberg reiterated this was not a deterrent either. Admitting money cannot replace a loss of life, he created equations to determine the amount each claim will receive in an attempt to ease the pain and financial burdens resulting from the accidents.
Starting August 1, those wishing to file a claim will have until December 31 at 11:59 p.m. Upon filing, questions must be answered about the accident and its cause to show it was due to the ignition switch defect, although absolute proof is not required. If the airbag deployed, it is an immediate refusal. Other factors previously used as reasons for the accidents, including speeding, texting, drinking and not wearing a seatbelt, aren’t deterrents for claims.
The fund covers three types of claims: deaths, catastrophic injuries and less-serious injuries. From there, the matrix helps determine the exact amount due based on age and income. Claimants range into the millions depending on the facts of the case.
While most will be decided using the system, some cases will be determined by Feinberg based on the uniqueness of the situation. For example, a woman from Texas believed for most of a decade that it was her fault her boyfriend died in a car accident when she was driving. A trace of Xanax in her system led to a manslaughter charge. Learning about the defect freed her from blame, but also allowed years of pain to resurface, leading Feinberg to take a personal interest. He calls it an “extraordinary circumstance” and should be evaluated without the formula.
In recent interviews, GM CEO Mary Barra promised to do the right thing and remedy the mistakes of her company. This led to the decision to trust Feinberg’s judgment and allow victims from any time and location to file for a claim.
Anyone who files a claim agrees not to sue GM, but those considering or currently in the process can still submit as a free preview to see what they can receive. If someone received money from a previous lawsuit for the defect, they can still file a claim and if more money is awarded than what they received in court, they can receive the difference through the fund.
If you believe you have a claim against GM due to the ignition switch defect and would like to determine your compensation amount, visit Feinberg’s site for more information and how to get in contact with him. He’s willing to meet with anyone who files for more information.
Healey, J. R. (2014). Feinberg announces how GM switch victims will be paid. USA Today. [Link]