GM victims’ fund receives 63 death claims in first week – USA TODAY
More than half the claims submitted in the first week to the General Motors fund for deaths and injuries possibly tied to GM’s defective ignition switches are from families who say one of their members died, a spokesperson for fund manager Kenneth Feinberg said Friday.
Feinberg began accepting claims last Friday and so far 125 claims were filed, 63 involving fatalities. Claimants must show that loved ones’ deaths or injuries were caused primarily by a malfunction of the ignition to be eligible for compensation.
But even if only half the death claims qualify it would mean that GM and regulators have underreported the consequences of the defect. The company said its data shows only 13 people died in the 2.6 million small cars it recalled for the ignition switch problem.
The recall covers Chevrolet Cobalts, HHRs, Pontiac G5s and Solstices, Saturn Ion and Sky models, mostly sold between 2003 to 2007 model years.
The company’s ignition switch problem, which some engineers knew about for years, has sparked congressional investigations, federal safety and stock probes, and a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In response, GM has beefed up its safety team, and has issued a total of 66 recalls this year affecting 29 million cars and trucks worldwide. That total includes five new U.S. recalls announced Friday affecting 269,001 cars and SUVs. GM also announced a recall on Friday of some Cadillac sedans outside the USA.
While GM has estimated it would pay victims between $400 million and $600 million from the fund, Feinberg and GM CEO Mary Barra have said it is uncapped.
“We will make sure compensation is generous,” Feinberg said before a Senate hearing last month. And according to the fund’s website: “Contributory negligence attributed to the driver of the vehicle e.g. intoxication, speeding, is irrelevant; the new program will not examine or evaluate any such contributory negligence.”
Families and those injured can apply through Dec. 31. They must show evidence that the defect caused their injury or their loved one’s death.
Eligible claims will be paid three to six months from the time that a claim is filed.