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General Motors offers ignition defect settlement plan

General Motors recently outlined a settlement plan to compensate victims of car accidents caused by its ignition switch defects. However, the families of two teen girls from Wisconsin who were killed in a faulty ignition switch-related crash have yet to decide if they will partake in the settlement.

The car accident, which resulted in the death of the girls, occurred in 2006. Both a 15-year-old girl and an 18-year-old girl were killed. They were driving home after a trip to Walmart when their vehicle suddenly stalled. The 17-year-old driver of the car lost control, and the vehicle went into some trees. Allegedly, the ignition switch defect caused the air bags to fail.

Neither the deceased passengers nor the driver was using their seat belts at the time of the incident. The two passengers died, one of whom was riding in the back seat. The driver suffered brain damage. Initially, GM only said it would compensate victims who had been riding in seats with air bags. Now, GM says it plans to offer some level of compensation for passengers too.

One part of GM's settlement plan involves the compensation of families with $4 million for a deceased 25-year-old, who was earning $47,000 annually and had two children. On the other hand, families of a deceased 17-year-old student, who did not have a job and was living at home, would receive $2.2 million under the settlement plan.

Families who have already filed separate lawsuits regarding loved ones killed by a GM ignition switch defect must now decide whether to dismiss their pending litigation in favor the global settlement offer GM has put on the table. This could be a difficult decision to make. The families of the girls killed in the crash described above, for example, do not like how GM has decided to place a higher value on one person's life compared to another.

Deciding on a dollar amount during settlement negotiations in a personal injury or wrongful death case can be difficult. Ultimately, this is where an attorney's expertise and past experience can be invaluable. By evaluating the results of similar cases, court evidence and other factors, it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement figure in many cases, which can allow victims and their families to avoid the risks and costs associated with bringing a personal injury claim to trial.

Source: Journal Sentinal, "Families of Wisconsin crash victims undecided about GM program," June 30, 2014

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