GM ignition switch fund says 107 death claims approved image

The largest US automaker set up an ignition switch compensation fund last year after the ignition switch crisis started last year, with the program managers announcing since last week another three death claims have been approved for a total of 107.

The program has been run by outside lawyer Kenneth Feinberg and his office, with the most recent report adding that besides the three new fatality cases, they also approved eight new injury claims through last Friday, the total of approved claims for deaths and injuries now at 306. The 199 injury claims are being spread as 12 serious life-changing injuries and 179 for less severe injuries that still required hospitalization and treatment.

Back in February last year, GM announced it was recalling 2.6 million older cars for a defective ignition switch, which could cause an engine shutdown while driving, cutting power to the key safety systems, including the airbags. GM then was forced to acknowledge it had known about the flaw for more than a decade and the ensuing investigations prompted it to establish the compensation fund for the victims. Initially the automaker only acknowledged last year that 13 death cases were related to the flaw.

There are numerous reports now concerning the criminal investigation conducted by the US Justice Department, with the automaker possibly facing charges for the delay – which could result in the indictment of former or current employees and a fine expected to be above $1.2 billion. So far, the NHTSA only imposed a penalty of $35 million last year and the company is under monitoring until at least May 2016.