The attorney representing GM in the company's pending compensation cases has announced that there will be no limit to the amount of compensation GM will pay car crash victims whose accidents were caused by their vehicle's faulty ignition switch. Some are saying that the final total payout could reach the billions of dollars. So far, GM says 13 deaths were likely caused by the ignition switch failure in two of their small car models, but others say there could be hundreds of other cases involving death and serious injury.
The company has reportedly placed Kenneth Feinberg, a top compensation expert in the U.S., in charge of determining how much each injured crash victim or family member will receive in compensation. He has said that depending on how many claims are filed, the numbers could reach the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. He refrained from giving an estimate of the cost for GM, however. He did make it clear at a news conference that GM was willing to pay whatever they had to for eligible claims.
By setting up a compensation fund, GM is attempting to limit their liability, control damage to their image, and try to move past the issues caused by the ignition switch failure that has been a problem for the company for over 10 years. The list of GM cars that are being recalled continues to grow, but not all of them will be included in the compensation fund. GM said that a separate issue is relevant to the latest cars that have been recalled. Only those who were injured in crashes that were caused by the ignition-switch failure in small cars will be eligible for the refund, so other GM vehicles that have exhibited safety problems will be excluded from the fund. Eligibility requires that it be proven that the switches caused the crashes. Once a victim settles their case, they cannot later sue GM.
GM will be accepting claims between August 1 and December 31 and payment is expected within 90 to 180 days after filing in most cases. Those people who previously settled lawsuits with the company may be able to apply for more compensation. In determining compensation amounts, Feinberg has said that the driver's contributory negligence will not be considered as a factor used in the decision making process. GM has admitted the switches were defective and that employees were negligent in installing them, so their defenses are limited.
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