Pictures of people killed when their cars' ignition switches malfunctioned are displayed by family members while General Motors CEO Mary Barra testifies at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in June. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

GM Raises Ignition-Switch Death Toll to 21

Sept. 22, 2014
General Motors raises the death toll linked to its faulty ignition switches to 21 as compensation claims mount following its delayed vehicle safety recall.

NEW YORK -- General Motors on Monday raised the death toll linked to its faulty ignition switches to 21 as compensation claims mount following its long-delayed safety recall of the dangerous cars.

Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney in charge of the independent compensation fund set up by General Motors (IW 500/5), reported the program had received 675 claims as of September 19, including 143 death claims.

Of the total, 37 claims were determined eligible for compensation to date, including 21 for deaths.

A week ago, in his first report on processing compensation requests, there were a total of 445 claims, with 125 filed for deaths. At that time 31 claims were deemed valid, including 19 for deaths.

In the latest tally, the number of claims for hospitalization or outpatient medical treatment stemming from ignition-related accidents soared to 467 from the week-ago number of 262.

Claims for crippling injuries such as brain damage or double amputation rose by seven claims to 65.

In the base plan announced by Feinberg on June 30, for each eligible death claim, GM will pay a minimum $1 million for the victim, $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.

GM set up the program earlier this year after recalling 2.6 million cars over 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 knew about the problem for a decade or more, but only took recall action beginning in February, after hundreds of possible accidents and deaths in the affected cars.

The independent Center for Auto Safety says it has counted more than 300 deaths linked to air bag nondeployment in the GM cars covered by the ignition recall, though it has not tied those to ignition shutdowns.

Lawyers for many victims have already filed a number of class-action lawsuits 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 began taking claims on August 1 and will accept them through December 31.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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