MONTGOMERY, ALA. (August 25, 2014) – A fund to compensate the victims of the General Motors (GM) defective ignition switch officially began accepting claims this month. The fund is being independently administered by Kenneth Feinberg. As of Friday, Aug. 22, 284 claims had been filed, of which 100 are death claims. Mr. Feinberg, along with Camille Biros, a lawyer in his firm, will evaluate the claims to determine eligibility and compensation amounts. Drivers, passengers and pedestrians killed or injured by one of the defective GM vehicles may file a claim through Dec. 31.
“Our firm and The Cooper Firm have submitted multiple claims with the fund. Thus far we haven’t received any response, but expect to hear something very soon,” said Jere Beasley, Principal & Founder of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. “We have submitted valid claims and have every reason to believe that the compensation awards will be fair and adequate. Of course, if they aren’t, we will pursue the claims in the courts and let juries determine the value of each claim. Since we are pursuing the Melton claim in a Georgia state court we will have discovery responses very soon that will make the cases that go the court route much easier to prove. The Melton case is referred to by the media as the ‘linchpin’ to the overall GM litigation, and for good reason. I am very sure that Mr. Feinberg is fully aware of the effect the Melton case will have on the GM litigation.”
GM has earmarked $400 million in its budget to cover potential payments through the fund, and has told investors the total payout may be even higher. There is no cap on the fund. The fund covers a range of GM vehicles including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. However, the fund does not cover many vehicles affected by similar ignition switch problems. It remains to be seen if GM will address issues stemming from those vehicles. GM has recalled more than 17 million vehicles related to the ignition switch problem that can leave a vehicle without power and the driver unable to control the vehicle in sudden and dangerous situations. Hundreds of innocent victims were killed because of the defective ignition switch.
GM has admitted the ignition switch defect is the cause of deaths, but the automaker refused to tell the truth about the death totals that it knew about and withheld from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some experts say more than 300 deaths were caused by the defective switches. Investigations have revealed GM knew about the ignition switch defect for 11 years before disclosing it to safety regulators and the public. We know that hundreds of people have been killed and many more seriously injured. The victims never knew of the link between their defective GM vehicle and their crashes.
The ignition switch in these vehicles may move from the “run” position to the “off” or “accessory” position, disabling power steering and brakes during operation, also possibly deactivating the airbags. GM initially recalled about 780,000 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles on Feb. 13. Twelve days later, it expanded the recall to include an additional 590,000 model-year 2003-07 Saturn Ion, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky vehicles. That initial recall now encompasses 2.6 million vehicles, and GM admits to 13 deaths related to the defect. In June, GM recalled an additional 3.4 million midsize and large cars for the same ignition switch defect. In July, GM recalled 17 older model (1997-2005) vehicles. GM attributes seven crashes, three deaths and eight injuries to this latest group of recalled vehicles, which it says allows “inadvertent ignition key rotation.” The total number of all safety-related recalls now exceeds 29 million.