The General Motors victims’ compensation fund has now received 178 wrongful death claims, reports the New York Times, 27 of which have been found eligible for payment by Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney hired by GM to determine validity of the claims as well as to manage the amounts compensated to victims of accidents connected to defective ignition switches in its small cars.
GM hired Feinberg in May and has set aside $400 million to $600 million to pay victims. The Detroit-based automaker began accepting compensation fund claims on August 1 and will accept them through December 31.
GM disclosed on Monday, October 13 that it has received 1,371 total claims to date. In addition to the 178 death claims, there are 1,193 injury claims. Feinberg, entrusted by GM with sole authority to determine death and injury claim eligibility, has so far validated 52 claims (27 death, 25 injury). As Reuters reports, at least three families have accepted awards from GM.
“Ken Feinberg and his team will independently determine the final number of eligible individuals,” said GM spokesman Dave Roman, according to a Bloomberg News report. “What is most important is that we are doing the right thing for those who lost loved ones and for those who suffered physical injury.”
The 27 deaths so far linked to defective GM ignition switches are more than double the company’s original estimate of 13. Feinberg told Bloomberg that he expects the fatality tally to increase as claims come in through the end of the year.
Around 2.6 million GM cars with faulty ignition switches have been recalled since February. The switches can accidentally turn off the engine in a moving car, disabling power steering, power brakes and airbags. Feinberg has been hired to handle claims on the following models of cars sold in the US:
• Chevrolet Cobalts and HHR
• Saturn Ions and Sky
• Pontiac G4, G5 and Solstice
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in May fined GM $35 million for its delayed response to the defect. Some at GM knew about the ignition switch problem for a decade but failed to issue a recall.
GM’s compensation fund will pay $1 million for each death claim, plus $300,000 for each spouse and dependent. It will also calculate the economic value (measured in lifetime earnings lost) of each life lost.
The Times notes that more money may be available through to the family of victims through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, but that the burden of proof is more lenient under Feinberg’s program. Claimants who accept a GM settlement waive the right to sue the automaker for faulty ignition switch damages.
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident involving a GM with a faulty ignition switch, contact WilliamsFord to discuss your legal rights and options free of charge.