Having completed a review of 4,342 claims and declared 124 deaths eligible for at least $1 million in compensation, the administrator of the General Motors Ignition Compensation Fund likely will offer a review of his staff’s work, perhaps next week, according to someone familiar with the matter.
But that will not mark the completion of the fund, the source said, because not all awards have been expended yet. Those eligible for compensation have 90 days to accept or reject the offer, and not all offers that have been accepted have been paid.
The claims were filed by families of people who died in crashes or people who were injured in the mostly 2003 through 2007 small cars GM recalled beginning in February 2014 because the ignition switches could disengage, cutting electrical power to steering, air bags and other critical functions of the cars.
Kenneth Feinberg, the Washington-based lawyer who also oversaw compensation funds for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for people whose businesses were damaged by BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has led the GM fund which was created about one year ago.
GM said last month that it has set aside $625 million to pay for the settlements in cases Feinberg and his staff determined were caused by the defective ignition switches. Through July 17, the company paid out $280 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The people who filed the claims in the 124 fatal cases will receive at least $1 million each. The settlement could be larger based on certain demographic facts, such as the age of the person killed, their profession and salary, and whether they were a parent.
In addition to the fatal cases, Feinberg and his team reviewed 277 claims in which someone involved in a crash caused by the defective ignition switches suffered a life-altering injury such as paralysis, loss of limbs, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns.
Of those, 17 were found to be eligible for compensation.
Another 3,591 claims were for medical costs incurred from less serious injuries that were treated through outpatient remedies within 48 hours of the accident. Of those, 257 claims have been deemed eligible for compensation.
Separately, GM remains the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York about its possible criminal wrongdoing in the way it dealt with the ignition-switch defect. An independent investigation by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas found that some GM engineers knew as early as 2003 that the switches could malfunction.
The company’s outside legal counsel had warned that the problem could lead to a significant number of wrongful-death cases, and GM settled one such case for $5 million before it began to recall the 2003 through 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions, Chrevrolet HHRs, Saturn Skys and Pontiac G5s.