Last Summer GM (General Motors Co.) stated that any victims of the GM Ignition-Switch Defect would be compensated fully for injuries and/or wrongful death sustained as a result. Since GM is in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has not ruled whether or not GM is or is not barred from lawsuits under the terms of said bankruptcy, many claimants are filing claims in the massive GM fund lest they have no other legal remedy.
If the bankruptcy court were to lift the liability shield and allow lawsuits against GM, then GM could be held liable for punitive damages. It has been speculated that if someone were to file an action against GM in one of these cases, then GM might very well have a serious legal problem if GM can be held liable for punitive damages.
The ignition-switch defect is one that would disable the air bags and the power steering and, as a result, people in these vehicles died, were in accidents that were catastrophic in nature, and/or were injured severely. GM recalled over two (2) million vehicles. Since the fund was created, almost four and a half (4.5) million people have been notified yet only 2105 people, as of November 14, 2014, have filed claims into the fund.
Of those 2105 claims filed, only 72 have been deemed eligible for compensation in the fund. The other claims are either ineligible, deficient, under review, or, as with the vast majority of the claims (1106 total as of November 14, 2014, over half of the 2105 claims that have been filed) are lacking proper documentation.
The documentation that is required is very important for eligibility in the fund, and it is also very extensive. For example, the claimant must submit proper documentation that the air bags did not deploy. In a case where the car burns and there is no black box, then the claimant must rely on the officer who investigated the accident and/or testimony from an eye witness or witnesses to determine if anyone saw anything before the car burned such as an air bag. If an air bag did deploy, then the claim is not eligible under the plan.
In other cases, where there has been catastrophic accidents and/or severe injuries, a life care plan may be involved. This life care plan has to be submitted. It takes time to prepare these life care plans.
Some of the major legal questions that have been raised about the fund are as follows:
1.) Whether or not, despite GM’s efforts, there has been proper notification given to all possible claimants;
2.) Whether or not, due to the bankruptcy, people have enough information about their legal rights to make a decision whether or not the fund is the right legal avenue to take in their case verses a traditional civil legal action or any other legal remedy; and
3.) Is there enough time to gather the documentation that is required to be eligible for the fund.
It is important to note, however, that the GM fund does not have a cap in the amount that it can pay in compensation to those claims that are eligible under the fund. This, I think, is a positive aspect of the fund.
As shown in this case, if you or a loved one has a claim in a class action such as the GM fund, it is very important that you have competent legal counsel by your side. It was noted in the GM cases that a handful of Plaintiff’s firms had filed claims on behalf of potential claimants that lacked the proper documentation discussed herein. As a result, these claims will be or have been denied.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates we have represented many people and their families in class action litigation claims so if you or a loved suspects that you may have, or you do have, a class action claim, then Contact Us for your free legal consultation. We look forward to hearing from you soon and working with you.