GM Ignition Recall Death Toll Increases Again, 23 Deaths Now Linked To Defective Switches

It may take months or even years before we realize the full scope of devastation caused by the defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. But each week the picture becomes a bit clearer. This week, the overseer of the independent compensation fund announced that two more deaths were the direct result of the defect that went ignored for more than a decade.

Those two additional deaths bring the total toll to 23 – 10 more than General Motors originally admitted were a result of the defect, Reuters reports.

Ken Feinberg, the lawyer appointed to the head up the fund, announced Monday that the fund has received 867 claims for compensation for serious injuries or deaths related to the switch issue since the fund began accepting claims on August 1.

While eligible death claims increased from last week’s tally of 21, no additional serious physical injury claims were approved.

Claims will continue to be accepted and investigated until December 31.

GM’s initial tally of 13 deaths only included drivers and front-seat passengers who were killed when their airbags failed to deploy because the ignition had inadvertently been turned off. That means that passengers in the backseat were excluded, as they would have died regardless of whether or not the airbags deployed.

But if the ignition defect itself was the cause of the accident — the engine turns off while driving, causing the driver to panic and taking away the vehicle’s power steering and brakes — then it is responsible for any injuries to the backseat passengers, right? That’s the approach being taken by the compensation fund.

Additionally, the fund is considering claims from pedestrians and people in other cars that were harmed by an out-of-control GM vehicle.

When the fund was launched over the summer, GM said there would be no cap to the claims, but that compensation would be tied to the level of injury and loss experienced. An approved death claim is expected to result in an offer of compensation for at least $1 million, plus payments of $300,000 to surviving family members.

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.

The claimants are not obligated to accept the compensation, but if they do take the money they give up their rights to pursue legal action against GM with regard to the ignition defect.

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.

Deaths linked to GM ignition-switch defect rise to 23 [Reuters]

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