Deaths Attributable to GM Ignition Switch Problem Rises

Feinberg approves payment on claims for 19 deaths.

by on Sep.15, 2014

GM victims' fund czar Kenneth Feinberg approved payouts for 19 death claims.

The number of people killed as a result of General Motors’ faulty ignition switch allowing for the deactivation of the airbags in 2.6 million compact vehicles now officially stands at 19.

The problem the ignitions centers on a faulty switch that could inadvertently turn from the “On” position to “Off” or “Accessory” when the vehicle is jostled. In such an instance, the car would stall and its power steering and brakes, as well as its airbag system, would deactivate.

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Prior to now, GM admitted to 13 deaths resulting from the problems. The new number is the result of the findings of Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney overseeing the independent compensation fund set up by GM, who has approved 31 compensation claims, including 19 deaths.

The fund will pay at least $1 million for each death claim, along with $300,000 payments to surviving spouses and children for pain and suffering. In addition, it will calculate the economic value of the life lost. The automaker expects to pay between $400 million and $600 million to pay the claims, although under the terms of the fund, there is no cap on how much the maker will pay to settle claims.

While GM can question claims, it cannot refute Feinberg’s determinations regarding them.

“We have previously said that Ken Feinberg and his team will independently determine the final number of eligible individuals, so we accept their determinations for the compensation program,” according a statement from the automaker. “What is most important is that we are doing the right thing for those who lost loved ones and for those who suffered physical injury.”

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The fund has received 445 claims since Aug. 1 when they could be submitted. There have been 445 claims received, including 125 for deaths, 58 for very serious injuries and 262 for more minor injuries.

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Aside from the 19 deaths, there are four claims for very serious injuries and eight for minor injuries. Serious claims include physical injuries resulting in loss of limbs, permanent brain damage or serious burns. Lesser injuries include those “requiring hospitalization (or outpatient medical treatment) within 48 hours of the accident.”

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No compensation offers have been made yet. The maker has already paid the largest fine in U.S. history, ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for delaying the ignition switch recall. Meanwhile, it is facing a series of investigations, including one by the U.S. Justice Department that could eventually lead to criminal charges.

Administrator Feinberg is hoping to have all potential victims’ claims in hand by the end of this year, and intends to issue payments to those who qualify by early in 2015. It remains to be seen how many of those who have so far filed actually will fall under the fund’s guidelines.

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One Response to “Deaths Attributable to GM Ignition Switch Problem Rises”

  1. nobsartist says:

    1 million seems a little low especially since it appears that there has been criminal intent.