An Automobile.com article says that after more than a year of collecting and evaluating more than 4,000 claims, attorneys have determined that General Motors is liable for 124 deaths and 275 injuries as a result of its faulty ignition switches.GM will allocate $625 million in victim payouts on the basis of the report. The voluntary compensation fund was announced last summer, and detailed that GM would award $1 million for victims who were killed, $300,000 for the deceased victim’s spouse, and $300,000 for each surviving dependent. For injured victims, GM will offer $20,000 to $500,000 for minor injuries, depending on how long they were in the hospital.
Of the 275 total injuries, 17 were determined to be serious, involving quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage, or pervasive burns. Minor injuries are defined as injuries requiring hospitalization or outpatient treatment within 48 hours of an accident.
Feinberg received 4,343 claims, but 3,944 (about 90 percent) were determined ineligible for compensation.
The ignition switch crisis has resulted in more than 2.6 million recalled vehicles, as well as 15 fired employees, many of whom were senior executives. Former U.S. Prosecutor Anthony Valukas, in his commissioned internal investigation, found that GM was both incompetent and neglectful from the get-go in responding to warning signs of the serious safety risks of defective ignition switches. CEO Mary Barry said that although there was no cover-up, “Repeatedly, individuals failed to disclose critical pieces of information that could have fundamentally changed the lives of those impacted by a faulty ignition switch.”
The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating whether GM should be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing in the matter. When the final settlement is announced, it is expected that GM will pay more than the $1.2 billion that Toyota paid in fines over its 2014 unintended-acceleration debacle. Some former GM employees could potentially face criminal charges.
In the meantime, federal oversight of automakers and their safety protocols is ratcheting up in a big way. GM already paid $35 million in civil penalties to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while Chrysler was just hit with a potential $105 million fine. Honda already paid its $70 million fine to NHTSA for failing to report vehicle safety information over the course of more than a decade.
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