GM ignition fund approves 1 new death claim to 36

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — One more death claim has been approved for General Motors Co.’s compensation fund for those killed or injured as a result of defective ignition switches. That raises to 36 the number of deaths linked to the delayed recall of 2.6 million GM cars.

No additional injury claims were appoved in the past 10 days, keeping the total findings for injuries at 44, including five very serious injury claims. In the holiday-shortened week, just 45 new claims were submitted, including four new death claims. GM initially said 13 deaths were linked to the problem.

GM adviser Ken Feinberg said as of Monday that 2,215 claims have been submitted — including 229 death claims and 142 for very serious injuries — and 1,081 have no documentation. Of the 229 death claims, 33 have been ruled ineligible, 74 deficient and 51 without documentation. Another 35 are currently under review. Overall, Feinberg has ruled 216 ineligible and says 463 are currently deficient. Another 375 are under review.

Of the 13 original victims identified by GM, all but four have submitted claims. Two are planning to do so, Feinberg said. Another is in Canada — and Feinberg hopes they will also submit a claim.

In May, GM paid a record-setting $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the delayed ignition switch recall, and agreed to up to three years of monitoring. The delayed recall has prompted investigations from the Justice Department, Congress, 48 state attorneys general, the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. and Canadian regulators.

GM has said it expects to spend $400 million on claims, but has said they could rise as high as $600 million.

Last month, Feinberg recommended and GM agreed to extend the deadline by 30 days until Jan. 31 — a month later than planned — as GM sent 850,000 letters to newly registered owners and others notifying them of the program. GM established the fund to provide compensation of those hurt or killed in the 2.59 million now-recalled Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars with defective ignition switches that can inadvertently turn the engine off and disable power steering and air bags.

Feinberg said it is only in “rare cases” that people don’t know about the program. He said there is no evidence of any “comprehensive failure of the notice program.” He thinks it is important to have a final date for claims so the program doesn’t drag on “and people can get on with their lives.” Setting a final date helps prod procrastinators, he said.