By on September 26, 2014


The compensation fund established by General Motors and managed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg to pay accident and fatality claims linked to a defective ignition switch in a handful of 2003-2007 models has made its first cash offers to 15 claimants.

Reuters reports the offers were made verbally earlier this week, and the claims were a mix of accident and fatality cases.

As far as submissions go, 850 claims — including 150 fatality claims — have been filed since the submission window opened August 1. The window will remain open until the end of this year, while claims will be examined for eligibility through the middle of 2015.

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11 Comments on “Fifteen Claimants Receive First Offers From GM Compensation Fund...”

  • avatar

    I’m still not sure what causes the accidents and fatalities. Does the steering lock when the switch turns off? On the older GM models that I own, the switch has to dramatically revolve all the way to lock the steering. If the engine just dies, why couldn’t these drivers just pull off the road, or hit the emergency 4 way flashers? It seems like a similar situation where one runs out of gas. Maybe those more knowledgeable about these accidents could reveal the cause of the wrecks.

    • 0 avatar

      No doubt in most instances, the car just coasts to a stop and restarted without incident. But approaching a turn or a stop can lead to an accident. And has. Or plowed into from behind. Or T-boned etc. But no, the steering doesn’t lock.

    • 0 avatar

      I do not know how competent drivers involved in those accidents were. If I consider average the ones I share the road with they might crash if the radio switches to a different station (I’m in Florida). From what I read the ignition will turn off and would kill the engine, with associated loss of power to assist braking and steering. Even if steering wheel is not locked drivers might fail to react or be unable to steer in the desired direction without the hydraulic boost. If not paying full attention, be it because it happened during a complex maneuver or they were on the phone or somehow impaired the time taken to react might have been too long to prevent a crash. Once they crashed air bags failure to deploy will increase rate of injuries suffered. I do not own any vehicle affected by this issue, this is just based on what I read and personal experience with a vehicle with disabled power steering which most people deemed “undrivable” (was perfectly drivable, just needed some muscular effort to steer).

  • avatar

    In summary, in the midst of an accident, the ignition switch can turn off, thus disabling the airbags, so the airbags don’t deploy as expected. The problem is not, to my understanding, about the ignition switch turning off while the vehicle is proceeding normally down the road.

    A deeper study of the reported incidents seems to indicate that in the majority of cases the “victims” were drunk or not wearing seat belts or epileptic or some combination of the above. We are all sorry for the loss of these people, and the whole thing is most unfortunate, but what I have read indicates that this is the case.

    • 0 avatar

      It stands to reason the accidents would’ve never happened if the switch hadn’t failed. The fact they were drunk, not wearing a seatbelt while texting at the time doesn’t change the root cause of the accident, even if they liked to live dangerously.

  • avatar

    The point is that – if I understand the situation correctly – the ignition switch defect is not the cause of the referenced accidents. The accidents occurred for other reasons. The ignition switch defect caused the vehicle airbags not to deploy once the accident was in progress. This is an important point that is largely missed in the discussion of this issue.

    • 0 avatar

      turf3, Exactly! And since most of these accidents have already been settled, litigated or otherwise closed, it is going to be a real tough slog for some actual victims, or their survivors, to re-open such accident investigations to prove the ignition switch further complicated an accident.

      Add to that the complications of insurances already having been paid out over the decades and the beneficiaries loathe to pay back the money or already having spent it all, and it doesn’t surprise me that the actual claims against GM are so low, considering the millions of GM vehicles with just the faulty ignition switch.

    • 0 avatar

      @turf3 – Nope, you have it all wrong. The defective switch shut off the engine, rendering the cars hard to stop/steer. These were not accidents already underway when the switch went to the ACC position.

  • avatar

    I don’t think Turf3 has it ALL wrong. If the driver lost control for whatever reason (evasive maneuver or inattention) and hit a curb or a pothole, the ignition could turn off. The loss of airbags in a subsequent impact could be critical as the accident unfolds and deprive the occupant(s) of protection on impact. Or the loss of power steering might impede the driver’s ability to steer the car and minimimze the impact.

    An ‘impaired’ or reckless or poor driver would be higher risk, and the consequences of key failure would be exacerbated here.

    OR, per Denver Mike, if a bump or a feather or whatever jerked the key and turned the ignition off, then the loss sudden loss of power steering might exceed the driver’s abilities; it might even make a difference to an expert driver should it occur the exact moment before an accident could have been avoided (say swerve to safety). The subsequent impact would probably be more dangerous, since the air bags would not deploy.

    I think we can all agree it would be better if key stayed in place and all systems functioned.

  • avatar

    I read up a little more on this. It looks like Denver Mike and I are both making assumptions about the sequence of events, given that the sequence of events can’t be known in detail.

    Here are the forensics in a large percentage of the small numnber of cases where I could find out any information on the details:

    – Impaired driver, usually traveling at a high rate of speed, runs off the road.
    – Car strikes something, airbags do not deploy, fatality results.
    – Upon investigation after the crash, ignition switch is in ACC position, which is known to disable airbags. (And, driver is found to have been impaired.)

    So, the question is, did the ignition switch turn off and then the driver ran off the road, due to inability to control a car with sudden loss of power assists, or did the car run off the road and the ignition switch turn off during all the subsequent bouncing and impacts, thus resulting in disabled air bags when the final impact occurred?

    I would suggest it’s more likely that an impaired driver left the road first; but on the other hand it’s also true that an impaired driver would probably be less able to control a car that suddenly lost power assists.

    This doesn’t mean that the design decisions around the ignition switch in question aren’t poor decisions; people have been making locking ignition switches since before 1970; there’s no excuse for not getting it right. Furthermore, because all kinds of wild things can happen when a car leaves the road at an excessive speed, it seems that air bags should not be turned off when the switch is in ACC position. But I think the whole thing has been grossly overblown and is well on the way to another “demonically possessed Audi 5000” fiasco. As the general public become less and less able to understand even the simplest matters of mechanics, and as cars become more and more complicated, there’s an increasing tendency to blame everything on the car and none of it on the driver.

    • 0 avatar

      The ironic and sad part is airbags remain active long after electrical power is lost. Up to 20 minutes. That’s unless the ignition is in the ACC or OFF positions.

      But I’m sure GM would have a problem when accusing deceased victims, even when impaired, that the accident would’ve happened anyways, already underway (when the switch went to ACC/OFF) or that an airbag wouldn’t have saved them.

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