Auto Defects — Ignition Switch
January 31 marked the last day for victims and their families who were injured by an ignition-switch defect to submit claims to General Motors (GM). GM established an uncapped victim compensation fund to handle the thousands of potential claims related to injury or death caused by a faulty ignition switch. The program began accepting claims for compensation on August 1, 2014 and in the last six months has reached 4,180 with 455 being death claims and 278 being claims of injuries so disabling that they require lifelong care plans.
Specifics of the Defect
The infamous defect causes the ignition switch to slip out of its position causing the car to stall, which then disables the air bags, power steering, and brakes — ultimately causing drivers to lose control of the vehicle. Ignition switch defects left at least 51 drivers dead — counting only victims in the front seats who would have otherwise been protected had the switches stayed turned on and the front airbags worked correctly. Between February 25th and April 9th, GM recalled a total of 2.59 million cars related to the ignition-switch defect from models including Saturn Ion, Saturn Sky, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Chevy Cobalt, and Pontiac G5. The defective ignition had been installed in these car models from 2003 through 2011 despite the fact that evidence of the dangers of this faulty ignition date back to 2004. It has been reported that in 2004, GM engineers encountered stalls while driving during test-drives of the Chevy Cobalt before the car went to market.
GM admitted to being aware of the defect; however, the company waited until 2014 to actually notify customers of the consequences of the problem. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that GM ordered 500,000 replacement ignition switches nearly two months before it alerted regulators to a defect in the switches. Ironically, GM could have fixed the defective switch for as little as 57 cents per vehicle. GM has faced major criticism due to these delays and inactivity in mitigating injuries due to these defects, which has lead to numerous investigations including a criminal inquiry by the Justice Department that is still open.
Who Can Receive Compensation?
The compensation fund only accepts claims related to physical injury or death from the GM defect, which it categorizes as: deceased; Category one (quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage, or pervasive burns); or Category Two (injuries that required a hospital visit within 48 hours of an accident). Although the compensation has not been capped, GM has set aside at least $400 million to cover the costs, including at least $1 million payout for eligible death claims.
Setting up the fund has been a strategic move for GM – allowing victims to settle and avoid saving them the trouble of long, drawn out, expensive court cases while at the same time keeping GM from image-damaging litigation. According to the New York Times, the independent administrator of the program has made 93 payment offers to people who were seriously injured and to families of those who have died and these offers have been accepted. So far 482 claims have been denied, leaving more than 3,000 claims still needing review.
Contact an Attorney for Help
Have you been injured as a result of a defective ignition switch or other car part? Reach out to the Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Boone & Davis for immediate assistance.