GM is recalling millions of cars to replace a badly designed ignition switch that could be turned off too easily

GM is recalling millions of cars to replace a badly designed ignition switch that could be turned off too easily

Over 90% of those who received offers from General Motors' compensation fund opted to accept them, including all 124 families of those who died in crashes linked to defective ignition switches, a final report said.

Of 237 claims approved for two classifications of serious injury, 37 compensation awards were rejected, lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, retained by the automaker to manage the fund, said in his report.

Of 4,343 claims made, 473 were for deaths alleged due to the faulty switch and 124 were approved. A total of 399 claims were approved, including those for injury, and GM paid out US$594,535,752.

Feinberg said GM paid out for eligible crashes that occurred both before and after its 2009 bankruptcy though the automaker could have avoided the earlier claims due to legal conditions protecting 'new' GM from claims prior to the bankruptcy and restructuring. Of the 399 approved claims, 271 occurred on or after 10 July, 2009.

The report noted 244 individual eligible claimants had one or more factors such as driving without wearing a seatbelt, excessive speed or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs associated with their respective accidents.

The report said: "It is important to emphasise that the protocol expressly ignored any evidence of contributory negligence on the part of the driver; accordingly, the programme did not consider any such evidence in making its individual determinations. Yet, contributory negligence loomed large as a contributing cause of many of the automobile accidents resulting in death and physical injury."

Camille Biros, the fund's deputy administrator, told the Detroit News the $594.5m amount offered to all approved claims included the pending offer. But because some rejected claims, the actual payout by GM would be less.

By 16 October, the automaker has said, it had paid $453m to about 300 claimants, victims and families. GM had estimated the cost of the compensation at $625m.

Feinberg and his firm said the success of the programme was due to "a number of important factors" including notifying as many potentially eligible individuals about the existence of the programme; over 5m notices were sent out by GM to current and former owners of eligible vehicles.

"The facility retained complete and sole discretion over all eligibility decisions and compensation awards to eligible claimants. GM placed no cap on the aggregate amount, had no say in final eligibility determinations and agreed to pay whatever the facility deemed appropriate in each and every case.

"The facility did not conduct rigorous scientific or technical determinations or engineering analyses as to whether an ignition switch defect manifested itself in a particular accident or whether a particular death or injury was 'caused' by an ignition switch defect. The facility also did not consider legal defences that might otherwise be available to GM in litigation, such as contributory negligence, statutes of limitations, or the bankruptcy shield."