General Motors Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

GM Raises Ignition-Switch Death Toll to 24

This is the fourth time the largest U.S. automaker has raised the death toll as it deals with the ignition-switch scandal that has tarnished its safety reputation.

NEW YORK - General Motors (IW 500/5) (GM) has raised its ignition-switch death toll as compensation claims flood into the automaker following its long-delayed recall of millions of flawed cars.

As of October 3, the number of people killed in crashes because of the defective ignition switches was 24, said Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney in charge of the independent compensation fund set up by GM.

His claims update, viewed online Tuesday, showed the program had received 1,130 claims, including 165 for deaths.

Of the total, 40 claims were determined eligible for compensation to date, including the 24 fatalities.

It was the fourth time the largest U.S. automaker has raised the death toll as it deals with the ignition-switch scandal that has tarnished its safety reputation.

The company waited nearly 11 years before beginning to recall 2.6 million cars, in February, after hundreds of possible accidents and deaths were reported.

Until late August GM had acknowledged 13 deaths from crashes related to the problem, in which the faulty ignition could turn off power to a car's power steering and safety airbags while it is in motion.

GM plans to pay a minimum $1 million for each eligible death claim, plus $300,000 for the surviving spouse and another $300,000 for each surviving dependent.

The GM compensation fund began taking claims on August 1 and Feinberg first reported in September there were eligible claims for 19 deaths, subsequently raising the number to 21, 23 and now, 24.

In the latest tally of claims deemed eligible, four were for hospitalization or outpatient medical treatment stemming from ignition-related accidents and 12 were for crippling injuries such as brain damage or double amputation.

GM plans to pay a minimum $1 million for each eligible death claim, plus $300,000 for the surviving spouse and another $300,000 for each surviving dependent.

Financial and medical treatment compensation of at least $20,000 will also be offered to those with eligible physical injury claims from an accident.

Lawyers for many victims have already filed a number of class-action suits that could cost the company far more than its promised payouts under the compensation program.

But the program offers victims the promise of earlier payouts, if they give up their right to sue once their claim has been accepted.

The GM fund will accept compensation claims through December 31.

GM has recalled about 30 million vehicles this year for a range of problems. The company so far has an estimated $2.5 billion in recall-related costs.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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