9-Out-Of-10 GM Ignition Switch Compensation Claims Denied

The fund set up by General Motors to compensate victims of the carmaker’s long-ignored ignition switch defect ultimately acknowledged that GM was responsible for 124 deaths and 257 injuries, but these confirmed instances only represent a small portion of the thousands of claims rejected by the fund.

The fund, which ceased accepting claims after Jan. 31, ultimately rejected 3,944 of the 4,343 applications it received.

According to the Chicago Tribune, many of the rejected claims failed to demonstrate that the deaths or injuries were tied to the ignition defect that affected more than 2 million GM vehicles, most notably the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion.

The defective switch in these vehicles could be inadvertently turned off while the car was in use, resulting in a loss of power to the airbags.

A lawyer representing the fund explained to the Tribune that some rejected claims involved instances in which the airbag deployed. To the fund, that was a sign that the ignition switch must have still been in the “on” position at the time of the collision.

Some at GM knew about the defect as early as 2001, before the affected vehicles even went into production. The design flaw was quietly fixed several years later but without issuing a recall to fix vehicles on the road. Additionally, the part number was not changed, meaning there was no easy way to differentiate between the defective switches and the improved parts.

At the time of the recall, GM would only acknowledge 13 fatalities. Following the compensation fund’s review, the death toll is nearly 10 times that original figure.

The company claims that upper management at GM did not learn of the problem until shortly before issuing a recall in 2014, a decade after people began dying in accidents related to the ignition issue. Even though documents turned up during a federal investigation show that at least one current GM VP was made aware of the defect in 2005, the carmaker has denied any sort of cover-up and instead blames a “culture of incompetence.”

Federal prosecutors are reportedly prepping criminal charges against GM, though it’s not known if charges will be brought against individual employees or just the company.

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