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General Motors (GM) is expected to start accepting claims next month through a victims compensation fund established for personal injuries and deaths that occurred in recalled vehicles with defective ignition switches.
Millions of Chevy, Saturn and Pontiac vehicles have been impacted by GM ignition switch recalls this year, due to issues where the vehicle may suddenly shut off if heavy key chains are used or if the ignition is jarred, such as may occur in an accident. This may cause the driver to lose control or prevent the airbags from opening, increasing the risk of serious and potentially fatal injuries in a crash.
The automaker has acknowledged that at least 16 deaths and dozens of other injuries may be linked to defective ignition switches, but many estimates suggest that substantially more people nationwide have been impacted.
Multiple investigations have established that GM knew about the ignition switch problems since at least 2002, yet failed to act until February of this year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined GM $35 million over the ignition switch recall, and GM’s own internal investigation said the incident revealed a “pattern of incompetence” within the company.
In response to a growing number of GM recall lawsuits filed nationwide, the auto maker announced last month that it intends to compensate all victims involved in accidents that resulted in personal injury or death. However, the company has suggested that it will defend against non-injury claims, such as those being brought by vehicle owners for diminished property values.
According to the final protocols (PDF) released on June 30, the automaker will begin accepting applications for the GM ignition switch fund on August 1, 2014.
Under terms of the GM compensation fund, claimants must either be the individual physically injured in the accident, a legal representative or the decedent of someone injured or killed in the accident. They must have been the driver or a passenger in one of the recalled vehicles, or a pedestrian, or the occupant of another vehicle involved in an accident with a recalled vehicle from the list below:
- 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt
- 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR
- 2007-2009 Daewoo G2X
- 2007-2010 Opel/Vauxhall GT
- 2005-2006 Pontiac G4
- 2005-2010 Pontiac G5
- 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit
- 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice
- 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
- 2007-2010 Saturn Sky
In some cases, the vehicles had the defective ignition switches when they were first assembled, but in other cases the ignition switch was replaced later with a defective one.
The submissions must establish that the air bags in the GM vehicle did not deploy during the accident to be eligible for consideration.
The deadline for filing settlement claims with the GM fund is December 31, 2014, with a cut off for accidents before December 31, 2014.
GM has indicated that settlements will start at $1 million for families of individuals who died in auto accidents linked to the defective ignition switches, and those with permanent injuries requiring medical care may get much more.
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.