US: GM ignition switch death toll at 104 image

The General Motors Ignition Compensation Fund has so far approved claims involving 104 death cases linked to the automaker’s recall of 2.6 million older cars equipped with a defective ignition switch.

The recall, started last year in February, proved to be the turning point for a year of record recalls for the automaker, many also linked to the ignition switch, after the US regulators and general public found out the fatal switches were known to the company for at least a decade. The ensuing scandal, regulatory scrutiny and lawsuits prompted the largest US automaker and the third biggest in the world to establish a victims’ compensation fund, led by outside attorney Ken Feinberg, which had prior experience in directing such cases. As of last week, 104 cases of fatalities have been approved and are eligible for compensation of one million dollars or more – depending on whether the victim had dependants. The fund still ahs 495 claim cases to review, with 26 of them involving deaths.

So far the program has also acknowledged 12 people had suffered catastrophic injuries, including the loss of a limb, permanent brain damage or major burns. There are also 179 approved settlements for people with less severe injuries that still needed hospitalization and treatment.GM has said the fund has unlimited funds at its disposal, but it forecasted it would ultimately cost around $550 million. The involved cars have switches that can turn off the engine while driving, with critical loss of power for the vehicle’s key safety systems, including the airbags.