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Fund to pay Montana claims for General Motors product defect

It seems like not a week goes by without another story in a Montana paper reporting a General Motors recall. A July headline in TIME said the number of vehicles the car manufacturer recalled so far in 2014 "would wrap the earth four times." General Motors has recalled more than 28 million vehicles worldwide in just six months.

Defective products aren't always harmful to Gallatin County consumers, but some automobile design flaws can be deadly. The car company was aware there were problems with ignition switches as far back as 2004, but GM officials didn't announce a recall until four months ago. The federal government is now investigating the company for criminal violations.

In the meantime, GM has set up a compensation fund for victims harmed by ignition switch defects. Thirteen known traffic fatalities and an unidentified number of accident injuries were linked to the faulty switches. GM recalled 2.6 million cars with the defect.

Claims can be made to receive money from the GM compensation fund from Aug. 1 through the end of the year. The car maker is offering a minimum of $1 million to every family who lost a loved one, plus an extra $300,000 for each surviving immediate family member and a wage loss sum.

The company also announced it would pay people injured in ignition switch-related crashes, including indirect accident victims, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles. GM said even drivers with partial fault for a collision could file claims. There is no cap for the amount of compensation to be paid, but there is a catch.

Once a compensation claim is paid through the GM fund, a recipient forfeits the opportunity to take the automaker to court. While this is not a formal settlement, it is similar. When product liability settlements are proposed, an attorney can advise whether the amount is satisfactory.

Source: NBC Montana, "GM offers victims more than $1 million," Katie Lobosco, June 30, 2014

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