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GM Compensation Program Raises Death Toll from Ignition Switches to 50

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/27/2015 Kelly Pleskot
2003-saturn-ion-sedan-right-side© Provided by MotorTrend 2003-saturn-ion-sedan-right-side

An expert hired by General Motors to handle claims stemming from ignition switch recalls has linked the issue to 50 fatalities. The death toll has increased since the last estimate of 38 in December, and a previous estimate of 27 back in October.

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Only four days remain for those who want to seek payment for death and injuries caused by faulty ignition switches. GM's compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg revealed the death totals on Monday. Meanwhile, according to a report from the Associated Press, the deputy administrator of the compensation fund expects a wave of claims to surface just before the January 31 deadline, and this could increase the death toll further.

GM set aside $400 million last year for payments in the fund, but said this number could end up at $600 million by the end of the program. So far, GM has received 338 death claims and 2730 claims of injury. Of these, 58 death claims have been rejected while 230 additional death claims await review or further documentation. Meanwhile, GM has also rejected 328 injury claims, while 75 have been approved and another 2327 are still in limbo.

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For more than a decade, GM knew of the ignition switch failures on a number of its older vehicles. But it wasn't until 2014 that GM recalled 2.6 million cars to replace ignition cylinders for cars at risk of stalling when the switch slips out of the "on" position. And after a company-wide safety review that year, GM ended up recalling 30 million vehicles for a variety of issues.

Feinberg said he will make a decision on new claims within 90 to 180 days. But work on these claims could extend as far as into the summer.

Other groups have estimated that the death toll related to ignition switch failures is much greater than what Feinberg estimates. In March of last year, the Center for Auto Safety argued that 303 deaths could be attributed to front passenger airbags failing to deploy because of the ignition switch defect.

Source: Detroit Free Press

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