The administrator of the General Motors ignition switch compensation program said late Sunday the fund would extend the deadline for submitting claims until Jan. 31, 2015, because the Detroit automaker is sending notices to 850,000 owners this week.
The Detroit automaker said it supported the move.
“We agreed with Ken Feinberg’s recommendation to extend the compensation program deadline. Our goal with the program has been to reach every eligible person impacted,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said late Sunday.
Feinberg, the independent administrator of the fund, said in a statement he thought many efforts to notify all eligible claimants have been largely successful. GM has already sent notices to 4.5 million people, targeting all current and prior owners of the eligible vehicles.
The fund was established by GM to compensate those hurt or killed because of defective ignition switches that can allow the key to turn off the car accidentally, disabling power steering and air bags.
The decision came after GM and Feinberg faced increasing pressure on Capitol Hill and from safety advocates to extend the program, in part because one of the 13 initial fatalities linked to the ignition switch defect didn’t learn they were among those linked by GM until earlier this month.
The one month extension is being implemented “out of an abundance of caution,” Feinberg said, “and because supplemental notice is being mailed this week by GM to approximately 850,000 newly registered owners and to those individuals for whom a change in registration, change of address or corrected address has been received.”
“I believe that the many efforts to reach all possible GM automobile owners, former owners and others who might have been adversely impacted by a defective ignition switch have been both comprehensive and effective,” Feinberg said. “There will always be some individuals who do not receive formal notice and are generally unaware of available compensation. But such individuals appear to be very few in number.
“Because of our determination to provide comprehensive notice and give each claimant an opportunity to file a claim in a timely manner, we have decided to extend the filing deadline an additional 30 days until January 31, 2015.”
Late Sunday, a spokeswoman for the fund said it has now approved 33 death claims, up one over the last week, and another four injury claims to 39. That’s more than double the 13 deaths GM initially connected to the issue. Fund spokeswoman Amy Weiss also confirmed that families of four of the original 13 death claims connected by GM haven’t filed claims yet.
The fund has now received 2,105 claims, including 217 for deaths, up another 14 percent over the previous week, including 15 additional deaths About 10 percent of the claims have been rejected, mostly because they were for ineligible vehicles.
The New York Times reported the extension earlier Sunday.