US: GM ignition switch fatality toll surges to 80 image

The General Motors faulty ignition switches have caused a total of eighty deaths, according to the traditional weekly update by the leader of the company’s compensation program.

Last year in February the largest US automaker, also the third biggest in the world, initiated a safety campaign for 2.6 million cars, mostly older Chevy Cobalts and Saturn Ions, and the company subsequently acknowledged it was at least a decade late in calling the recall. The subsequent hype and numerous lawsuits and investigations the carmaker faced prompted it to initiate a victims’ compensation fund – setting aside more than $400 million and tapping attorney Kenneth Feinberg to run it. The fund was created last August and it accepted claims until January 31, 2015 – though numerous claims submitted afterwards were still deemed eligible if they were postmarked by that date. From last week’s update, three more death cases have been deemed eligible for compensation, bringing the total so far to 80. Additionally, out of the total of 4,342 filed claims for the fund, another 1,246 cases remain under review. Almost 30 percent of them were ruled out because there were not enough documents or because the claimants didn’t prove the accident was primarily caused by the failing ignition switch. The defective part can cause an engine turn off while driving, with the potentially catastrophic loss of power to critical safety systems, such as the airbags as a consequence.

Feinberg and his office have so far said that eleven claims are eligible for compensation for catastrophic, life-changing injuries (quadriplegia, paraplegia, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns) and they also approved 137 claims for less serious injuries that still needed hospitalization or outpatient treatment.