General Motor’s Ignition Switch Death Toll Rises To 35

Less than a year ago, General Motors claimed that only 13 fatalities had resulted from a faulty ignition switch issue. Now three months after a plan to compensate victims was set up, 35 death claims have been accepted.

Reuters reports that two additional deaths have been attributed to the defective switch, while no additional injury claims were approved.

So far, the victim compensation plan, which began accepting claims on August 1, has received 2,180 claims for injuries and deaths.

According to the weekly report submitted by Ken Feinberg, the lawyer tasked with heading the plan, the number of claims received for injuries and deaths was up about 3% from one week ago.

Overall, the fund has received 225 claims for deaths, 139 for catastrophic injuries and 1,816 for less-serious injuries requiring hospitalization.

Of the approved claims, 35 have been for deaths, five for severe injuries and 39 for other injuries.

Feinberg says in his weekly report that 215 claims have been deemed ineligible, 455 have lacked sufficient paperwork or evidence and 1,076 have no documentation al all.

Last week, GM announced that the plan would continue to accept claims until January 31, one month longer than the initial deadline of December 31.

Feinberg says in a statement at the time that additional notices are being mailed to approximately 850,000 newly registered owners and to those individuals for whom a change in registration, change of address or corrected address has been received.

“I believe that the many efforts to reach all possible GM automobile owners, former owners and others who might have been adversely impacted by a defective ignition switch have been both comprehensive and effective,” Feinberg said. “There will always be some individuals who do not receive formal notice and are generally unaware of available compensation. But such individuals appear to be very few in number.”

Officials with GM previously said they expect to spend $400 million on claims, but that could rise as high as $600 million.

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.

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.

Two more deaths identified by GM ignition-switch program [Reuters]

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