You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

GM Victim Compensation Program: If Airbags Deployed, Don't Bother Filing

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/30/2014 Alex Nishimoto

Details on General Motors' ignition switch victim compensation program have been announced. Ken Feinberg, the attorney charged with doling out the payments, said in a press conference he will consider all cases where the airbag in a recall-affected vehicle failed to deploy.


That set of criteria is broader than the one GM used to determine whether defective ignition switches were linked to accidents, which currently stand at 54 related crashes and 13 deaths. To arrive at those numbers, GM only counted front-impact collisions where airbags didn't deploy. Now, side-impact and other types of crashes will be considered. However, in order for a claim to be eligible the airbag must not have deployed. 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS

"Airbag deployment means the power is on. Can't be the ignition switch," Feinberg said during a press conference. "If the airbag deployed, don't bother filing a claim."

But if a claim is determined to be legitimate, Feinberg has final say on the amount that's paid. GM cannot reject or alter any payment amount. 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe Rear Side View© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe Rear Side View

"Once I render a final decision, GM has agreed it will honor that decision," Feinberg said. "No appeals. No rejection. It must pay it."

By filing a claim, victims waive their right to sue GM in the future. However, victims who have already settled ignition-related lawsuits with GM are able to submit claims even if they signed a release not to sue. Victims won't be excluded from the program based on "contributory negligence," which includes texting, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and drunk driving.

As for how much a victim can receive, that depends on a number of factors. Most claims will fall under three main categories. The first one involves death of a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or occupants involved in a crash. Payments will be calculated based on a formula that uses national averages for settlement values and the victim's historical earnings, employment benefits, and other variables. As for non-economic loss, claimants will receive a pre-set $1 million covering pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, etc. plus $300,000 for the surviving spouse and $300,000 each for surviving dependents. 2007 Saturn Sky Redline Rear Three Quarter© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Saturn Sky Redline Rear Three Quarter

The other two categories deal with varying levels of injury. If an ignition-related crash rendered you a quadriplegic or paraplegic, you'd be entitled to a calculated economic loss payment based on your historical earnings plus compensation for your hospital stay up to $500,000. Less serious injuries are eligible for the same hospital treatment compensation.

In each case, victims can go with the standard amount calculated using Feinberg's formula, or ask the program to consider their "extraordinary circumstances." At any rate, claimants will have to show that an ignition switch defect "was the proximate, substantial cause of the accident," according to Feinberg. That will need to be shown through evidence such as black box data, police reports, crash photographs, maintenance records, and medical or insurance reports. Once a claim is approved, it will be paid in 90-180 days. 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS Rear Side View© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS Rear Side View

According to the most recent internal GM document released by the House committee investigating GM's handling of the recall, more than 800 accidents involved Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions with airbags that failed to deploy. Previous reports suggested the GM ignition death toll was much higher than the reported 13 fatalities, and with the criteria now changed to include all airbag non-deployments, you can expect the official count to rise.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required) 1, 2, 3, 4

2007 Saturn Ion Front Three Quarter© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Saturn Ion Front Three Quarter

More from Motor Trend


image beaconimage beaconimage beacon