Death Toll From GM Ignition Defect Reaches 56

A year after General Motors first announced the long-delayed recall of the Chevy Cobalt, Saturn Ion and several other vehicles for an ignition problem that both the carmaker and regulators had ignored, the fund responsible for vetting death and injury claims related to the recall is now acknowledging at least 56 fatalities.

In addition to the increased number of deaths, up from 51 at the beginning of the month, the number of eligible injury claims also jumped up to 87 from 77.

Though the Jan. 31 deadline for filing a claim has passed, the flood of last-minute filings means it will still be some time until the fund has reached a final, grim tally of the dead and injured, especially since nearly 2,000 claims currently lack important supporting documentation like a police report.

There is also the issue of whether all the eligible claimants will accept the offers made by the fund. Those deemed eligible are receiving settlement offers from the fund, but they are not required to accept it. If they don’t accept the offer, the claimants can still seek other action against the carmaker, but anyone who accepts a settlement gives up their right to further legal claims.

In all, the fund has received 4,312 claims from people alleging damage related to an incident resulting from an ignition defect.

Before the fund was established in August, GM had only acknowledged 13 deaths tied to this recall. However, that number came under fire from critics who pointed out that it only accounted for front seat passengers in the actual cars where ignitions unexpectedly turned off. It also only looked at head-on crashes where airbags did not deploy.

The fund opened up eligibility to include other passengers in the car, people in other vehicles involved in the crash or pedestrians who were harmed during an accident. However, even after the fund began reviewing claims, some of the family members of the original 13 fatalities said they had no idea their late loved one had even been included in the group of eligible victims.


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