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Ignition Switch Injury Claims Pour In As GM Tries to Block More Lawsuits

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A growing number of claims are being filed with General Motors’ victims compensation fund on behalf of individuals injured or killed as a result of defective ignition switches used in certain Chevy, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles.

As of Monday, at least 89 claims have been filed with the fund, which began taking claims on August 1, according to the office of Ken Feinberg, the attorney GM has hired to manage the fund. However, ignition switch recall lawyers investigating potential claims indicate that there ultimately going to be hundreds cases filed.

The GM settlement fund was set up by the automaker for those injured or the families of those killed in any of 2.56 million small vehicles that GM recalled earlier this year due to defective ignition switches, which may prevent the air bag from deploying in an accident.

It has been revealed that GM knew those vehicles had problems for more than a decade, but failed to issue an ignition switch recall until earlier this year.

Amid a re-examination of safety issues by the company, GM has actually recalled nearly 20 million vehicles this year due to ignition switch problems. However, it is only offering compensation on those injured or killed in accidents involving the first 2.56 million vehicles recalled. In addition, the company continuing to fight claims brought on behalf of some victims injured in vehicles sold before GM’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization, indicating that the “new GM” should not be liable for problems caused by the old company.

The deadline for filing settlement claims with the GM fund is December 31, 2014, with a cut off for accidents before December 31, 2014.

On the same day the company opened the victims compensation fund to claims, for which it has allocated $400 million, the company filed a motion with the U.S. bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, saying that it is protected from lawsuits by drivers who were in accidents before 2009, when it went through bankruptcy.

Those accidents, according to the company, are the liability of the “old” GM, which no longer exists, and thus the company cannot be sued for them. The company has asked the court to do the same for economic lawsuits linked to cars sold before 2009 as well.

Most of the models in the initial recall predate the company’s reorganization. The vehicles covered by the compensation fund include the 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007-2010 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice, and 2007-2010 Saturn Sky.

A number of plaintiffs have pushed ahead with lawsuits against the company despite the creation of the fund, including claims by those who say they were economically damaged by the company’s actions, and those who were injured or lost loved ones in recalled vehicles not included in the compensation fund.

A growing number of GM recall lawsuits have been filed by those claiming economic damages from the faulty ignition switches.

In early June, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order consolidating all economic lawsuits against GM under U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman in federal court in New York for pretrial proceedings. The next scheduled conference is set for August 11, at which time Furman may select attorneys for leadership roles in the litigation.

Last week, a product liability lawsuit was filed on behalf of families of 29 people who died in accidents linked to ignition switch defects, as well as for more than 600 people who were injured. All of the claims come from among the 17 million vehicles that GM has recalled for ignition switch problems, but for which it has refused to offer compensation.

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