GM Confirms At Least 19 Deaths Now Tied To Ignition Switch Defect

Despite receiving more than 100 death claims tied to General Motor’s deadly ignition switch defect, officials tasked with investigating the claims on behalf of the company’s Ignition Switch Compensation Fund say only 19 deaths claims have been approved to receive payments; that’s just six more than the company originally identified and far fewer than other reports have tied to the issue.

The New York Times reports that Ken Feinberg, the lawyer hired by GM to compensate victims for accidents caused by the ignition switch issue, has found 19 death claims to be eligible for the estimated million-dollar payments.

The program, which began accepting claims on August 1 and will continue until December 31, aims to provide relief for the victims and families affected by ignition switch issues that resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles and a number of federal probes related to the company’s 13-year delay in acknowledging the problem.

On Monday, Feinberg released statistics for the program that reveals the submission of 125 death claims, 58 series injury claims and 262 claims for less serious injuries.

The Times reports that so far the program has found four claims of serious injury – which include injuries resulting in quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns – eligible for compensation. Eight of the less serious injury claims have been approved; those injuries are described as requiring hospitalization or outpatient treatment within 48 hours of the accident.

According to the program, claims that have not been accepted are still under review or awaiting additional evidence.

The new statistics did not reveal the identities of the victims involved in the approved death claims, making it unclear whether the new figure includes any or all of the 13 deaths originally tied to the defect by GM.

The compensation plan, which was unveiled in late June, does not put a cap on the payment amount victims could receive. Instead those affected by the faulty switch could receive anywhere from $20,000 to double-digit millions depending a number of factors including loss of wages, severity of injuries and more.

According to the plan’s formula, families of those who died are entitled to at least $1 million, plus the calculation of lifetime earning lost, and $300,000 for a spouse and for each dependent.

Consumers who suffered life-altering injuries could receive even more when the cost of lifetime medical care, lost earnings power and other factors are considered.

The plan also addresses consumers who faced less-severe injuries. Those who were treated at a hospital or an outpatient medical facility within 48 hours of the accident are eligible for a claim.

The formula for that claim is $20,000 for one night in the hospital; $70,000 for two to seven overnights, $170,000 for eight to 15 overnights, with a maximum of $500,000 for 32 or more overnights. Those treated on an outpatient basis could receive a maximum of $20,000.

Additionally, the plan provides for payout for accidents that have yet to occur. The protocol will cover crashes that happen through December 31, 2014.

The compensation program covers approximately 1.6 million model-year 2003-2007 recalled vehicles manufactured with an ignition switch defect and approximately 1 million model year 2008-2011 recalled vehicles that may have been repaired with a recalled ignition switch.

While GM officials are hopeful the compensation program will deter victims from seeking relief through the courts, they say filing a complaint doesn’t necessarily mean consumers forfeit their right to sue.

Feinberg said in June that victims only waive their right to sue if they accept the payment from GM.

Number of Victims Eligible for G.M. Payouts Reaches 19 [The New York Times]