US: GM ignition switch fund concludes claims review and sees 124 fatalities image

General Motors initiated last year a fund designed to compensate the victims of the vehicles equipped with the automaker’s defective ignition switch.

General Motors, the largest US automaker and the third biggest in the world, announced at the beginning of last year a recall covering around 2.6 million vehicles – mostly small, older cars, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. The autos had faulty ignition switches that could jump into the “accessory” position while the vehicle was being driven, making the engine stop and thus cutting power to crucial safety systems such as the airbags or powered brakes. The ensuing scandal and investigations showed the company had knowledge of the defect for at least a decade and thus decided to set up a victims compensation fund run by experienced outside attorney Ken Feinberg. Now he and his tem have completed the review of claims and concluded that 398 people or their families are entitled to compensation.

The fund has found that 124 fatalities and 274 injuries occurred because of the faulty switch. GM’s initial findings only described 13 deaths. The claims were procession was completed last week – with 91 percent of the total of 4,342 deemed ineligible. According to fund official Camille Biros, 298 of the 396 offers they already made have been accepted and only five rejected. Each death will receive one million and the sum is going up according to certain factors, such as the victim having dependants. If an offer is accepted, the claimant agrees to stop any liability quest in court.