The number of people killed by defective GM vehicles is higher than GM`s initial estimate and stands at 19. The automaker previously disclosed only 13 deaths linked to faulty ignition switches, but Ken Feinberg, the attorney and independent administrator (Feinberg has administered compensation money after such catastrophes as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Boston Marathon bombing and the Sept. 11 attacks) overseeing a GM compensation fund for victims, and his deputy administrator, Camille Bros, have found nineteen death claims eligible for the compensation. The figure is not final and expected to rise.
Feinberg has reported that around 445 claims have filed for compensation, out of which 125 were death claims, 320 – for injuries, 262 – related to hospitalization, 58 – fatal injuries and some for pedestrian injuries.
At present, he has found 31 claims eligible for compensation. Fewer than a dozen claims have been denied, the others are still being reviewed. Eligible claims will be addressed within 3 months, whereas complicated case can take up to 6 months to be dealt with.
The automaker is offering to pay up to several million dollars to the families of the victims killed in accidents or those injured. $400 million are set aside to compensate victims, according to regulatory filings, though the fund is not limited.
How can the discrepancy between the automaker`s numbers and figures disclosed by Feinberg be explained?
General Motors had a team of its own engineers to make the determination, and 13 deaths linked to the defect was an engineering conclusion. The compensation administrators are applying “much more legal standard”, which includes all types of circumstantial evidence and evidence – repair records, photos and reports from insurers. It should be also noted, that the automaker counted only head-on crashes, where the front airbag failed to properly deploy, and those sitting in front seats were killed.
The extended list of victims includes 18-year-old Natasha Weigel, who was in the rear seat of Chevy Cobalt, which crashed due to a defective ignition. Her friend 17-years-old Megan Philips was driving the vehicle when it lost power steering, power braking and the airbag`s ability to deploy. Their friend 15-years-old Amy Rademaker was in the front seat, and her death was included in GM`s count of 13.
GM spokesman Dave Roman said that Ken Feinberg`s team will determine on their own the terminal number of eligible claims, and their determinations will be accepted for the compensation program.
Even if eligibility is determined, it doesn`t mean that a family or victim will agree to accept the automaker`s offer, so it`s too early to speak about how much the fund will pay out, according to Feinberg. Accepting compensation means agreeing not to sue General Motors, and some families have already announced that they will decline the Feinberg process and seek justice in court. However, Feinberg is confident that majority of claimants will agree to accept the compensation offered by GM fund.
The problem with faulty ignition switches went unreported for a decade, years after the automaker`s engineers disclosed it. The faulty switches caused brake and steering issues, as well as prevented the airbag from deploying. Major scrutiny of the automaker`s handling vehicle safety issues led to a range of recalls; GM has announced 65 this year for a total of approximately 30 million vehicles.
If you or your close ones have been injured driving a GM vehicle, contact the Margarian Law Firm at (818) 553-1000 to find out what you are entitled to.
Find out more about Feinberg`s GM victim plan here.