General Motors ignition switch compensation fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg has approved 50 claims for death and 75 claims for personal injury just before the deadline to file claims for damages related to defective ignition switches in GM vehicles arrives on Jan. 31.
Mr. Feinberg, who has also administered funds established for the victims of the BP oil spill, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the 9-11 terror attacks, reported that the GM ignition switch fund received has received 338 claims for death and 2,730 claims for injury since it began accepting claims in August. Many of the claims remain under review for eligibility.
The GM fund has rejected 58 of the death claims and 238 injury claims to date, leaving 2,327 injury cases and 230 death cases under review or awaiting further documentation.
GM allocated $400 million for the compensation fund, but said it is prepared for that amount to potentially grow to $600 million.
The carmaker set up to the fund to resolve some of the claims from victims of its defective ignition switches, which were installed in millions of vehicles over the course of a decade. The defective switch allows the key to potentially jostle inside the ignition, especially when a key chain with other keys or objects is attached and when the vehicle hits a bump or travels over a rough surface. In such cases, the key potentially turns the ignition to the “off” or “accessory” mode, killing engine power while the vehicle is in motion.
Crashes have occurred because the affected GM vehicles suddenly lose power steering and anti-lock brakes, making them difficult to control. Deaths and injuries have occurred because the defect also kills power to the airbags, resulting in a loss of airbag protection in the event of a crash.
GM’s failure to notify federal safety officials of the defect earned the company a maximum $35-million civil fine and prompted congressional and Justice Department investigations. When GM finally acknowledged the defect in February 2014, it launched the first in a series of recalls that affects more than 30 million cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Anyone affected by a crash believed to be the result of a defective ignition switch in a GM vehicle is urged to consult with an attorney to discuss the specifics of their claim, as it could be affected by the statute of limitations or whether the accident happened before GM’s bankruptcy. Claimants who accept a settlement offer from the GM ignition switch fund waive their right to sue GM over the same incident in the future.