When consumers affected by faulty ignition switches began filing claims against General Motors on August 1, there were only 12 deaths linked to the malfunctioning parts. According to Detroit News, however, at least 27 fatalities and 26 injuries have now been attributed to the flawed switches -- and those numbers could go much higher before the December 31 filing deadline.
When GM announced its payout plan to compensate vehicle owners and their families, the automaker said that there would be no cap on compensation -- either to individual victims or to plaintiffs as a whole.
To avoid any appearance of impropriety, the company also said that it would not be involved in the process of evaluating claims. GM appointed attorney Ken Feinberg -- the architect of the GM and Chrysler restructurings in 2009 -- to handle the job, giving him sole discretion to determine eligibility and award compensation. Here are a few numbers that show what he's accomplished to date:
- Since the compensation program began accepting claims on August 1, Feinberg and his team have received 1,371 claims.
- Of that total, 78 applicants have applied for death benefits, 85 have claimed serious injuries, 1,108 have submitted claims for less-serious injuries, and the remaining 100 involved other claims.
- To date 62 claims have been approved, including 27 that involved fatalities and 25 that involved injuries.
- GM expect to pay a minimum of $1 million for each death claim. That figure could go much higher, though, because Feinberg and his colleagues will also put a dollar amount on the value of the individual life lost. Also, $300,000 payments will be made to the spouses and children of the deceased.
- Roughly 31 settlement offers have been made to claimants, and Feinberg expects that all 31 will be accepted. (So far, 21 have been processed.)
- Between 90 and 100 claims have been ruled ineligible.
It's undoubtedly very slow going for Feinberg and his team, as they ask for supplemental documentation and conduct interviews with applicants. The number of deaths and injuries attributed to the ignition problem could rise significantly, given that the group is still evaluating most of the claims, and many more will likely be submitted before the December 31 postmark deadline.
If you plan to file a claim yourself, visit GMIgnitionCompensation.com to start the process.