GM Extends Claim Submission Deadline To January 31 For Ignition Switch Victims

With the deadline for submitting ignition switch related injuries and deaths for consideration under the General Motors’ Victim Compensation Plan a little more than a month away and thousands of consumers still waiting to be notified, officials with the car company have extended the deadline to January 31.

The Detroit News reports that General Motors announced the extension for submitting claims out of an “abundance of caution.”

The fund was established in late summer by GM to compensate those hurt or killed because of a defective ignition switch that can allow the key to turn off the car accidentally, disabling power steering and airbags.

The deadline extension comes after GM officials and Ken Feinberg, the independent administrator for the fund, faced increased pressure from lawmakers and safety advocates over possible issues with notifying owners of affected vehicles.

According to the Detroit News, one of the families of the 13 initial fatalities linked to the ignition switch defect didn’t learn they were among those linked by GM to the issue until earlier this month.

Feinberg says in a statement that additional notices are being mailed this week to approximately 850,000 newly registered owners and to those individuals for whom a change in registration, change of address or corrected address has been received.

“I believe that the many efforts to reach all possible GM automobile owners, former owners and others who might have been adversely impacted by a defective ignition switch have been both comprehensive and effective,” Feinberg says. “There will always be some individuals who do not receive formal notice and are generally unaware of available compensation. But such individuals appear to be very few in number.”

A spokesperson for the fund announced on Sunday that Feinberg, who has been given free rein to set eligibility for compensation, approved 33 death claims and 39 injury claims.

In all, the fund has now received 2,105 claims, including 217. Officials say that about 10% of the claims have been rejected, most because they involved ineligible vehicles.

So far, the fund has made 11 cash payments and 40 total offers, 28 of which have been accepted, the Detroit News reports.

Officials with GM previously said they expect to spend $400 million on claims, but that could rise as high as $600 million.

When the fund was launched over the summer, GM said there would be no cap to the claims, but that compensation would be tied to the level of injury and loss experienced. An approved death claim is expected to result in an offer of compensation for at least $1 million, plus payments of $300,000 to surviving family members.

Consumers who suffered life-altering injuries could receive even more when the cost of lifetime medical care, lost earnings power and other factors are considered.

The plan also addresses consumers who faced less-severe injuries. Those who were treated at a hospital or an outpatient medical facility within 48 hours of the accident are eligible for a claim.

The formula for that claim is $20,000 for one night in the hospital; $70,000 for two to seven overnights, $170,000 for eight to 15 overnights, with a maximum of $500,000 for 32 or more overnights. Those treated on an outpatient basis could receive a maximum of $20,000.

The claimants are not obligated to accept the compensation, but if they do take the money they give up their rights to pursue legal action against GM with regard to the ignition defect.

The compensation program covers approximately 1.6 million model-year 2003-2007 recalled vehicles manufactured with an ignition switch defect and approximately 1 million model year 2008-2011 recalled vehicles that may have been repaired with a recalled ignition switch.

GM extends ignition compensation deadline to Jan. 31 [The Detroit News]