GM Knew 2003 Death Was Tied To Ignition Problem, Didn’t Tell Family

Back in 2003, a woman died in a car crash after the airbag in her Saturn Ion failed to deploy. In 2004, GM denied an insurance claim related to the incident. That was the last the woman’s family would hear from the carmaker for 10 years, even though its own lawyers had included her in the 13 deaths it initially acknowledged were tied to a faulty ignition switch.

The NY Times reports that while GM’s lawyers had counted the Saturn driver as one of those 13 victims, it had redacted all information that could have been used to identify her. Thus, not even her family knew — until they were contacted by reporters — that they were eligible to make a claim for at least $1 million from the car company’s massive settlement fund.

More than 30 death-related claims have since been approved, but the revelation that GM had not proactively reached out to the victims of this 11-year-old incident raises questions about whether that number includes those 13 fatalities the company had originally admitted being aware of.

The carmaker would not respond to the Times’ question about whether or not the families of the other dozen victims had been contacted.

“Our goal is to be just and timely in compensating all of the families who lost loved ones and those who suffered serious physical injury,” said the company.

But is it just and timely to not make any effort to contact the family of a victim that GM has known about for more than a decade?

The big concern now for the victim’s family is that there is a strict deadline of Dec. 31 for filing claims with GM.

“They should be able to extend the deadline now that we know, and they didn’t tell us,” one of the victim’s four children tells the Times.

But his son appears to be less hopeful, asking, “Why would they extend it after they tried so hard to keep it from us?”

Earlier this year, when the Times was able to identify 12 of the 13 victims in the cases then acknowledged by GM, none of the families had been contacted or made aware that their loved ones were part of that group.

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