General Motors Co. has hired Kenneth Feinberg, the nation’s most well-known compensation expert, to pay people harmed in crashes caused by faulty ignition switches in older-model small cars. GM says it’s trying to do the right thing by making the payments. The company says at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths were caused by the problem, but lawyers and lawmakers say there will be hundreds of claims. GM is recalling 2.6 million small cars from 2003-2011 due to the problem. Feinberg says there’s no limit to the total amount he can pay, and GM can’t overrule his decisions.
Here are details of the compensation plan announced by Feinberg on Monday:
WHO’S ELIGIBLE: Relatives of those killed in crashes. Drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and people in other cars involved in crashes with the GM vehicles who suffered serious physical injuries or relatives of people killed in crashes.
DEADLINE: People can begin applying for compensation Aug. 1. The deadline for filing a claim is Dec. 31. Feinberg expects most claims to be processed in 90 to 180 days.
COMPENSATION LIMITS: None for deaths or extreme injuries such as permanent brain damage, loss of limbs, paralysis and serious burns. Less serious injuries are limited by formulas similar to what Feinberg used to compensate those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. People can get quick settlements based on formulas for death and extreme injuries, or they can try to prove to Feinberg that they should get more money by proving extraordinary circumstances. Feinberg says GM has placed no limit on the total he can spend. Lawyers say it will be in the billions.
BURDEN OF PROOF: Those filing claims must show that their crashes were caused by faulty GM small-car ignition switches. The switches can unexpectedly slip from "run" to "accessory," shutting off the engines and causing loss of power steering and brakes. The air bags also are disabled. Those injured in frontal crashes in which air bags did not deploy are likely to get compensation. Frontal crashes without air bag deployment are not eligible because it’s unlikely the switch caused the crash if the air bags worked.
RIGHT TO SUE: Those who settle with Feinberg give up their right to sue.
AFFECTED MODELS: About 2.6 million small cars worldwide, including the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5; 2003-2007 Saturn Ion; and 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, and any newer models from 2008-2011 that got the switches as replacement parts.
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