GM Faulty Ignition Death Toll Continues to Rise

Authorities Tie More Than 20 Deaths to Defective Ignition Switch

Kenneth Feinberg, the victim’s compensation expert hired by General Motors to assess potential claims related to defective ignition switches in some of the company’s small cars, has acknowledged that the confirmed death toll tied to the ignition switch malfunction is now 21, and could go much higher. Feinberg told reporters that, to date, 675 claims have been filed, including 143 that allege an accidental death caused by the ignition switch problem. Feinstein has also approved 37 injury claims to date.

Critics have lambasted GM and its management for perceived delays and efforts to minimize or hide knowledge of the ignition switch problems, contending that the automaker first knew of potential problems as early as 2003. According to experts, the ignition switch on early model Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other similar vehicles had a history of slipping from the “Run” function to “Accessory,” which would cut off all power to the vehicle, including power brakes, steering and air bags, leaving drivers helpless and unprotected in an accident.

General Motors has set up a $400 million fund to compensate the victims, but most experts believe it won’t be enough, as payouts under the compensation program have no caps. The company has also recalled nearly three million vehicles. Though no one has accepted an offer from GM yet, the company hopes to avoid protracted litigation by getting many to take payouts and waive their right to sue. The proposed payout on death claims includes $1 in addition to any other damages.

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