MONTGOMERY, ALA. (February 3, 2015) – The deadline for victims injured or killed as a result of the General Motors defective ignition switch passed Saturday, Jan. 31. Despite a plea from members of Congress, GM has declined to extend the deadline. The victim compensation fund began accepting claims Aug. 1, 2014. Originally, the fund was scheduled to close Dec. 31, 2014, but the deadline was extended to Jan. 31, 2015. As of Feb. 1, GM has received a total of 4,180 claims for compensation, according to Kenneth Feinberg, the fund administrator. Mr. Feinberg has so far determined that 51 deaths, eight severe injuries and 69 other injuries are eligible for compensation.
Just before the final deadline, two Democratic senators – Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) and Edward Markey, (D-Mass.) led the call for GM to extend the deadline for application to the ignition switch fund for a second time, but GM declined to do so. Legislators argued the Jan. 31 deadline did not provide enough time for victims who are still waiting on a decision about GM’s bankruptcy and related liability, which is still pending before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber in New York.
“On Saturday, Ken Feinberg’s GM claims office stopped accepting claims for the defective GM ignition switch. A number of US Senators encouraged GM to extend the deadline for submission of claims, but GM refused. This is short sighted,” said Beasley Allen Principal & Founder Jere Beasley. “Again, GM appears to be more concerned about getting this safety disaster behind it rather than ensuring that folks injured and the families of people killed by its admitted defective ignition switches are fairly compensated.
“Ken Feinberg is doing his best to operate within the confines imposed on him by GM. While some of the criteria and some of the awards are overly restrictive, other claims have been fairly evaluated. Many of our clients have accepted the awards presented by the claims office. Thus far, only one of our clients, who has a case pending in Indiana, will not accept the award. In light of the physical evidence, the extent of his injuries and the conduct of GM, the value of his case is worth significantly more than what has been offered to him.
“As the awards continue to trickle in, our clients will decide whether to accept the awards or allow our firm and Lance Cooper’s firm to litigate the cases. It is disappointing, though, that many individuals and families may be left without a choice because GM will not accept any more claims even though GM is responsible for injuries and deaths caused by the defective ignition switch.”
GM’s ignition switch defect potentially allows the key to slip the ignition into the “accessory” or off position, cutting off engine power, deactivating airbags and making the vehicle difficult to control. In May, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) hit GM with a $35 million fine for neglecting to follow federal rules mandating automakers notify regulators of safety defects within five business days of discovering them, issue a recall, and develop a repair. Evidence indicates that GM knew of its potentially deadly ignition switch defect for more than a decade before it issued its first series of recalls a year ago.