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More Deaths Attributed to GM Ignition Switch Defect

Sep 16, 2014

The lawyer supervising the General Motors compensation fund stated that 19 deaths, not the 13 initially indicated by GM, have been attributed to the automaker’s defective ignition switches.

The number of deaths is more than the 13 that GM originally indicated were associated with the ignition switch issue that was not reported for 10 years, years after GM engineers discovered the defect, according to CNNMoney.

So far, the attorney has received 125 claims for deaths and 320 claims for injuries in the five weeks he has been managing the fund. Of the incidents reported, he has discovered 31 that are eligible for compensation. Most of those that remain are being reviewed and less than one-dozen have been denied, CNNMoney reported.

"Already there are more deaths than GM said from day one," Ken Feinberg, the attorney overseeing GM’s compensation fund, told CNNMoney. "Of course there will be additional eligible deaths; how many is pure speculation, but there will be eligible death claims." The attorney has also identified four other individuals who suffered significant injuries that include qadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, brain damage, or serious burns; another eight have been identified with less severe injuries. For the most part, the claims involve drivers who were in their teens or early 20s at the time of the crashes and were driving their first cars.

The families of those who died are eligible to collect $1 million, an estimate of the victim's future earning potential, and $300,000 for every surviving spouse and dependent, according to CNNMoney. Compensation for individuals injured ranges from $20,000 for the least serious injuries to $500,000 for people who spent more than one month in the hospital.

According to the attorney, "GM had its engineers determine, with certainty, that there were 13 deaths caused by the ignition switch defect…. The program we are administering is much easier to satisfy." Claimants must prove the ignition switch was a "proximate cause" of the accident. Feinberg explained that, "We're applying a legal standard…. The 13 was an engineering conclusion," according to CNNMoney. The initial GM count included head-on crashes in which the front airbag did not deploy appropriately and victims were seated in the vehicles' front seats.

"We have previously said that Ken Feinberg and his team will independently determine the final number of eligible individuals, so we accept their determinations for the compensation program," GM spokesman, Dave Roman said, CNNMoney reported.

GM was aware of the ignition switch flaw for years and its engineers first became aware of the flaw ten years ago; however GM only publicly acknowledged the problem for the first time in February 2014, CNNMoney wrote. GM has recalled 2.6 million cars related to the problem, which involves the ignition switch being bumped out of the “run” position in some small Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn cars. This disables the power steering, anti-lock braking, and airbags. GM has issued 65 recalls this year for nearly 30 million vehicles.

Feinberg was hired by GM to oversee the fund. He has been previously called upon to oversee other funds, including for victims of 9/11, the Gulf oil spill, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

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