As of Friday last week, the confirmed number of deaths stemming from the General Motors 2.6 million cars ignition switch recall has reached the 50 people mark, which is roughly four times higher than GM’s initial toll.
Back in February 2014, General Motors, the No. 1 US automaker, acknowledged it was to recall a total of 2.6 million older cars, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions because they were equipped with a defective ignition switch that could shut down the engine in motion. That would have led to a catastrophic loss of power to the critical safety systems, including airbags and power brakes. The automaker also acknowledged it had concealed the defect for more than a decade and decided to establish an ignition switch compensation fund, led by outside attorney Kenneth Feinberg – who had prior experience in directing such programs.
Now, the January 31 deadline for filing claims is fast approaching, with the program so far receiving a total of 338 death claims filed between August and January 23. While 50 claims have already been approved, the number might soar even further, because Feinberg reported that 67 are still under review and 53 applications are being counseled about proper documents – with the rest being entirely ruled out. The lawyer also explained that his standards for approving an eligible claim differ from GM’s – “GM engineers were looking for definitive proof of ignition switch failure,” he commented for Bloomberg.
So far, the automaker has been hit with more than 150 switch-related lawsuits filed by crash victims and other owners, while the recall toll rose globally to 34 million vehicles through September of last year, spending in the process $2.7 billion on fixes, oaner cars and other related costs.