On February 4th, thousands of claimants will learn whether they might be able to obtain compensation from General Motors (GM) for defective product claims filed prior to 2009, when the U.S. automaker had been hunkering in bankruptcy.
4,180 claimants — who contend that GM product defects caused serious injuries and death — took legal action before a January 31st deadline. Per the bankruptcy court's ruling, these claimants will be eligible to obtain compensation from GM. Those who failed to file before the deadline, however, have now lost their eligibility. This point may be confusing to people unfamiliar with personal injury law. If some company hurt you or a loved one, you might think that you should have all the time in the world to bring legal action. However, statutes of limitation and court decisions can constrain when and how injured people (and their families) can seek compensation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, GM established a robust claims resolution program in response to the automaker's failure to recall 2.6 million vehicles. As we reported extensively last year, for over a dozen years, GM produced cars like Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions that contained faulty ignition switches. These defective parts, which caused several deaths around the globe and hundreds of injuries, prompted a massive and bruising recall in 2014. Engineers first flagged the ignition switch issue back in 2003.
GM wants to court to exempt the company from having to pay out compensation for any ignition switch related injuries or deaths that occurred prior to 2009. GM says it seeks this exemption, because bankruptcy protection should have shielded the company from liability.
After the claims are processed, the number of those who may be eligible for compensation will likely rise from 51 associated deaths and 77 injuries. Fortune.com reports that the compensation program will probably be processing claims until the beginning of summer. Those who accept a settlement from the compensation fund will have to waive their rights to seek further legal action against GM for this recall. Those awarded compensation in the claim will have 90 days from the award time to accept the offer and waive their rights to lawsuits.
Anyone waiting to hear from the compensation fund regarding a claim should seek the advice of a qualified injury attorney before accepting a settlement.
Our Washington D.C. auto accident attorneys would be happy to provide a free and thorough consultation about your recent accident and possible case. Call or email us today to explore your strategic options.
For more on the beleaguered company's troubles, check out this article to learn how GM's 2015 has been going: General Motors' Recall Headaches Follow the Company into the New Year.