The deadline to submit wrongful-death and personal-injury claims to a fund set up for victims of the General Motors (GM) defective ignition switches has been extended for an additional month.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the special GM victim compensation fund, chose to extend the December 31 deadline to January 31 “out of an abundance of caution” to make sure everyone who may have been harmed by the ignition switch defect has a fair shot at filing a claim.
The ignition switch fund began accepting claims on August 1, a few months after GM announced it was launching a global recall of nearly 3 million vehicles for a potentially deadly defect that could cause the key to switch the engine off or into accessory mode without warning during vehicle operation, thereby deactivating power steering, anti-lock brakes, and airbag protection.
Using the number of claims accepted by the GM fund for compensation, the death toll linked to the ignition switch defect rose to 33 this week. Additionally, 39 injury claims have been approved for compensation. The fund has received more than 2,000 claims, but GM said that approximately half of the claims lacked the proper documentation. Nearly 300 are currently under review.
Mr. Feinberg noted that about 850,000 people had just registered their GM vehicles or changed their addresses, resulting in notifications to drivers of the affected vehicles being returned. He added that the number of people currently out of reach “appear to be very few in number” considering the massive scope of the outreach.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has been one of GM’s most outspoken critics, praised Mr. Feinberg for extending the deadline but said he should consider lifting the deadline completely.
“I do think they should eliminate any deadlines until the bankruptcy court rules on what the legal rights are of these folks or until the Justice Department completes its investigation. Because people don’t know what their rights are and what the facts are,” Sen. Blumenthal told Politico’s Morning Transportation.
According to Politico, so far the GM fund has deemed 72 claims as eligible for compensation, including those for 33 deaths. It has deemed 205 claims ineligible, of which 31 involved deaths. Any claimant who receives compensation from the fund must waive his or her right to sue GM for ignition switch related damages in the future. Of the 40 claimants who have received an offer from the fund, 28 have accepted.