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Death Toll Climbs in GM Ignition Switch Recall

Categories:Defective Drugs and Products

Tomorrow is the last day for victims of the GM ignition switch recall to file claims and seek monetary compensation. Originally, that deadline was December 31st, 2014. However, GM has decided to extend the filing period by one month to ensure that all 2.6 million recall-eligible current GM owners (and 1 million former owners) have the opportunity to submit their claims. Ignition switch victims have until tomorrow to file online through gmignitioncompensation.com — a website set up by GM’s compensation fund manager, Attorney Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg’s dispute resolution experience includes managing compensation funds for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, BP oil spill, Virginia Tech shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing.

At the time of Feinberg’s appointment, GM’s compensation fund was listed at $400 million. In reality, however, that $400 million figure is just an estimate. GM has given Feinberg total and sole discretion regarding which claims are eligible and how much money they can be given. There is no cap on the fund, nor is there a maximum limit to how much money can be awarded in an individual case. Feinberg will use a formula that takes into account both economic and non-economic losses to arrive at a fair award. Economic losses will be determined based on the victim’s age, average salary, historical earnings and number of dependents. Non-economic payouts are more straightforward: $1 million for every deceased person and $300,000 for each surviving spouse or dependent. Depending on the number of eligible claims that are filed by tomorrow’s deadline, the fund could easily grow to as much as $600 million dollars.

By accepting compensation, victims give up their right to sue GM. At the same time, neither GM nor the victim can appeal the amount awarded by Feinberg. As of June 2014, the ignition switch death toll was 13. As of January 26th, the number of deceased has grown to 50; 75 injury cases have also been found eligible. The same article reports that 338 death claims and 2,730 injury claims have been received by the fund thus far, with more expected as the deadline approaches.

This increased death toll can be attributed in part to more claimants coming forward as well as an expanded definition of eligibility from Feinberg. GM’s original figure only accounted for front-seat passengers involved in front-end collisions; side crashes or impacts that would not have triggered the airbags to deploy were initially excluded. Feinberg’s definition, however, is much more inclusive, as even the occupants of the other car (which may or may not be a GM vehicle) are now eligible. To officially qualify for compensation, you must have been a driver, passenger, pedestrian or an occupant of another car involved in an accident resulting in injury or death due to the ignition switch defect in one of GM’s affected vehicles. Property damage and emotional or psychological injuries are not eligible. (For a full vehicle list and a complete explanation of the recall, click here.)

Victims who choose not to go through the fund can try their hand at taking the carmaker to court. Those who had taken previous legal action against the carmaker are still eligible to apply to the compensation program. Ultimately, GM hopes that 90% of claims will be settled through the fund. Although the deadline for filing a claim through the compensation fund is tomorrow, the GM ignition switch recall is far from over. The investigation must be considered ongoing as long as new details continue to enter the picture. If you are the victim of a defective GM ignition switch, we urge you to call us today at 1-888-WE-MEAN-IT (888-936-3264).

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