MONTGOMERY, ALA. (September 15, 2014) – Just 45 days into accepting claims to the General Motors (GM) victim compensation fund, administrator Kenneth Feinberg reports there are 19 eligible death claims. This is six more than the total of13 deaths GM has previously admitted are linked to its defective ignition switch, which has prompted the recall of more than 17 million vehicles to date. Additionally, Mr. Feinberg says he also has identified four eligible claims for serious injury and approved eight claims for less serious injuries that nonetheless required hospitalization or outpatient treatment within 48 hours of an accident. Mr. Feinberg did not release the identities of any of the victims that have qualified for compensation, so it is unclear if any of the death claims include those GM has already admitted. Drivers, passengers and pedestrians killed or injured by one of the defective GM vehicles may file a claim through Dec. 31.
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., and The Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga., have submitted a total of 30 claims to the fund. The firms picked representative claims that would meet the eligibility criteria, and we expect each to be paid.
“We considered these submissions to be a test run to see how the claims would be treated and are holding back on others until we see how these are actually treated,” said Jere Beasley, Principal & Founder of Beasley Allen. “We know that the 19 total given for death claims is grossly low. We believe there have been more than 300 deaths caused by the ignition switch defect. We have seen two different approaches by GM when it comes to the fund and the litigation track. The CEO at GM is saying one thing publicly about how they will pay all claims and treat fairly the folks who have either lost loved ones or themselves have been injured. The fund is supposed to do that, according to Mrs. Bara and Mr. Feinberg. But both in the MDL and in the individual lawsuits that are in state courts, GM is playing hardball. The automaker is resisting discovery efforts and does not want to allow depositions of GM officers, engineers or lawyers to be taken. That is totally inconsistent with public utterances from the company. GM knows that it can’t afford to have key folks put under oath and have to tell the truth about what all GM knew, when they knew it, or who all was involved in the massive cover-up.”
Including those that have been approved, Mr. Feinberg reported the fund has received a total of 125 claims involving death, 58 claims for serious injuries, which may include quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns, and 262 claims for less serious injuries. 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. Investigations have revealed GM knew about the ignition switch defect for 11 years before disclosing it to safety regulators and the public.
GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility – Overall Program Statistics report