Ohio Valley, West Virginia

HomeWest VirginiaOhio Valley

Email Eric T. Chaffin Eric T. Chaffin on Twitter Eric T. Chaffin on Facebook Eric T. Chaffin on Avvo
Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
Attorney • (888) 480-1123

GM Claimants Filing for Wrongful Death: 100 and Counting

Comments Off

Since General Motors initially started recalling vehicles affected by the infamous ignition switch defect, they’ve publicly acknowledged that the problem has been linked to about 13 deaths. In March of 2014, The Center for Auto Safety estimated the number to be much higher, at more than 300 deaths.

Over the summer, the automaker established a settlement fund to cover damages for those claimants who can show that they were injured in one of the recalled vehicles. Now, according to a report in USA Today, the number of claims filed by plaintiffs who allege their loved ones were killed because of the defect has reached 100.

Claimants Filing for Wrongful Death Number 100

In GM cars affected by the ignition switch defect, the switch could inadvertently turn to the “off position,” cutting off power to airbags. A “heavy” key ring was said to have increased risk. If this occurred during an accident, it could prevent the airbags from deploying, resulting in serious injury.

Court documents have revealed that the company was aware of the problem as far back as 2004, but failed to implement a recall until this year (2014). So far, about 2.6 million vehicles have been recalled because of the defect. GM is now undergoing investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Justice Department for their potential mishandling of the situation.

Claimants Must Meet Rules of Eligibility

Between now and the end of the year, anyone who believes they have a legitimate claim against GM can file an application for compensation through the settlement program. Those applications are then reviewed by the attorney GM is working with to run the fund. Eligible claimants will have to provide some sort of proof that the ignition switch defect was connected to their injuries and/or wrongful death cases.

Whether plaintiffs will be eligible for payments depends on a number of factors outlined in the GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility. These include the following:

• The attorney—Ken Feinberg—has “sole discretion over all compensation awards to eligible victims, including eligibility to participate in the program and the amounts awarded.”
• Those who already settled claims with GM before they were aware of the defect can still apply for additional payments.
• Claimants must prove that a) they were driving an “eligible vehicle”—one that has been recalled by the company for the ignition switch defect—and that the defect was the “proximate cause” of the death or physical injury in the accident.

The fund recognizes three categories of eligible claims:

1. Individual death claims
2. Individual claims involving serious injuries (like paralysis and brain damage)
3. Individual claims involving less serious injuries

Applicants with eligible claims will be paid within 90-180 days from the time the application is deemed “substantially complete.”

Plaintiffs Can Still File Individual Lawsuits

Meanwhile, plaintiffs can still file their own personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. The company faces hundreds of these across the country already. If plaintiffs accept payments through the settlement funds, they must drop their personal lawsuits, but if they choose not to, they can continue in court.