Hundreds of Last-Minute Claims Pour into GM Victim Compensation Fund

Feb 02, 2015 02:00 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

The fund to provide restitution for injuries and deaths sustained in General Motors vehicles received thousands of claims before the deadline passed on Sunday, getting a last-minute rush from customers alleging damages.

Sorting through the influx of claims will take "weeks" to complete for the fund, which is headed by high-profile attorney Kenneth Feinberg, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Launching in August, the fund to provide compensation for those injured and the families of those killed in GM vehicles with faulty ignition switches has received 4,180 claims altogether, which compares with the around 3,350 claims that had been received as of Thursday.

As of this week, GM has confirmed 51 deaths in relation to the switches, which were installed in around 2.59 million small cars, including the Chevrolet Cobalt. The affected vehicles could turn off suddenly while moving if the driver's knee bumped the ignition, simultaneously disabling the air bags.

The automaker aims to settle with customers rather than risk a class-action lawsuit. Those who receive compensation from the GM fund must waive their right to sue the company.

So far, "of those who have been eligible for compensation, not one, so far, has rejected a payout offer," said Feinberg, as quoted by the Journal.  

His team opened up the fund to more payouts by creating less strict parameters. GM initially estimated about a quarter of the deaths confirmed so far, but the automaker's predicted figure was based on "definitive proof" instead of circumstantial evidence.

"GM took the approach of a strict engineering standard," Feinberg's associate Camille Biros said. "We looked at everything and we were more flexible. We looked at photographs, police reports and historical maintenance records. So if there was a history of problems and in the accident the air bags didn't deploy, we leaned toward paying the claims."

The claim review process will continue "well into the spring," Feinberg told Bloomberg last month.

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