As a part of a legal strategy for handling death and injury claims from its 2014 ignition switch recall on its own terms, General Motors (GM) established a compensation fund in June 2014 as a way to provide compensation to victims.
A GM spokesman described the fund as a non-adversarial approach to settling claims. It also served as a protection against larger financial exposure to pre-bankruptcy cases.
Despite evidence that GM failed to disclose information about the faulty switches for a decade, the company rigorously fought to retain protection from lawsuits for accidents that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy. That immunity shield has been upheld in several courts so far a ruling on a recent appeal to a higher court is expected next year.
The compensation fund, led by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, came to a close in July, and the details of the claims that received compensation were just released in a final status report.
According to the report, of the 4,343 death and injury claims that were filed, 399 were approved for compensation. That number includes 124 deaths, 18 catastrophic injuries and 257 other types of injuries.
Feinberg said that 128 claims or 32 percent of the total were for accidents that happened before GM filed for bankruptcy. Many people who filed claims for pre-bankruptcy accidents did so knowing that the fund may be their only option for gaining compensation for their injuries and losses.
The report also revealed that many claims were compensated despite evidence of contributory negligence such as victims who were driving recklessly, speeding, not wearing a seat-belt, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. About 61 percent of eligible claims involved some form of contributory negligence.
Overall, the fund awarded a total of $595 million in payments to eligible claimants. GM estimated that it would have to spend $625 million.
GM also recently reached a $575 million settlement to resolve 1,380 lawsuits filed by victims of the ignition switch.
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