General Motors has repeatedly acknowledged that the company has moral obligations to uphold in regards to the victims of its ignition switch recall. At the end of June, the automaker announced the details of its GM victim fund that was created by victims’ compensation specialist attorney Ken Feinberg. The GM fund was designed as an alternative to litigation and to provide compensation for the thousands of potential victims of defective switches. However, according to a CNN Money article, not all victims are included under the plans guidelines.
Earlier this year, GM recalled approximately 2.6 million older compact cars, most famously including the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion, which have defective ignition switches. The defect has been linked publicly by GM to 13 deaths and 54 crashes, although safety advocates and plaintiffs’ lawyers believe that number is much higher. More troubling was the fact that GM knew about the defect for more than a decade but failed to take action.
The GM ignition recall led to various federal investigations, a $35 million dollar fine, and a massive internal safety review which has led to the recall of about 30 million GM vehicles. More than 11 million of those vehicles were recalled for a problem very similar to the Cobalt recall: a poorly designed key can cause what GM calls “unintended ignition key rotation” that results in the same engine stalls, loss of power brakes/steering, and airbag failure at the heart of the earlier recall.
The GM fund is available for anyone who suffered a serious injury or the families of those killed in accidents where it can be determined the ignition switch was a “proximate” factor in the crash. One of the big sticking points to the plan, however, is that it is only available for crashes that involved vehicles in the February and March ignition recall.
GM says the June recalls are not included in the fund because, unlike the switches in the Cobalt and Ion, the problem is not with the switch but the way the key itself is designed. In those vehicles, GM has said it will provide owners with a plastic key insert that will change the head of the key fob from a slot to a hole.
Even though GM says the problem is different, the end result is the same: the June recall has been linked to 3 deaths and 13 injuries. For those victims, the only current recourse for compensation will be to sue GM.
Thomas J. Henry is representing more than 1,000 GM recall victims across the United States and has been investigating injuries and deaths linked to the recall since day one. The firm launched a nationwide media investigation into the recall in April, which brought forth thousands of affected individuals who had information critical to the investigation – information that the firm has handed over to federal agencies also investigating GM’s sluggish response the recall. As more and more individuals have flocked to Thomas J. Henry for representation, the firm has continued to push GM for a victim settlement fund. The firm has had several talks with GM’s victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg regarding appropriate victim compensation for the thousands affected by a fatal design flaw in ignition switches which left numerous dead and countless others seriously injured.