Death Toll in GMs Faulty Ignitionswitch Hits 97 :Bill Pugliano, Getty Images

Death Toll in GM's Faulty Ignition-switch Hits 97

NEW YORK --General Motors (IW 500/5) said Monday that at least 97 deaths are linked to faulty ignition switches on some of its cars as the largest U.S. automaker weighs compensation claims.

The GM independent compensation fund said that 45 death claims remained under review as of last Friday. The death toll rose from 90 confirmed claims in the prior week.

The fund, administered by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, has been working through 4,342 compensation claims for fatalities and injuries linked to the faulty equipment, which can cause the ignition to unintentionally switch out of the "on" position, disabling airbags and other functions.

GM knew of the ignition problem for more than a decade before it began recalling 2.6 million cars in February 2014.

The fund said Monday there were at least 12 confirmed cases of crippling injuries, such as brain damage or double amputation, as a result of ignition-related crashes. And there were at least 167 eligible claims for hospitalization or outpatient medical treatment.

The fund said that it still had a total of 669 claims under review.

GM will pay a minimum $1 million in death compensation, $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.

Claimants must waive any rights to litigation related to the ignition-switch defect to receive a payment.

GM faces a Justice Department probe of its conduct in the long-delayed recall and numerous other lawsuits.

In mid-April, a U..S bankruptcy judge ruled that General Motors's 2009 bankruptcy shields it from a large number of lawsuits over ignition-switch defects.

The judge rejected arguments made in class-action suits that post-bankruptcy GM should be liable for certain ignition-related loss claims dating to before the bankruptcy.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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