GM ignition switch death toll hits 38

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Two more death claims have been approved by the General Motors Co. compensation fund for those killed or injured because of defective ignition switches in GM cars, bringing the total of approved death claims to 38. Compensation fund adviser Kenneth Feinberg also said Monday that seven additional injury claims had been approved, bringing the total to 51.

Only 47 new claims were submitted last week — one of the slowest weeks since the fund was established — bringing the total to 2,262. The number of death claims rose to 239, up from 229, and serious injury claims rose to 150, up from 142 over a week earlier.

Feinberg’s office said 57 offers have been made and 22 paid. None have been rejected. Of the initial 13 deaths linked by GM, 11 have sought compensation and the remaining two are expected to file.

Feinberg said as of Friday, 986 claims don’t have verifying information, down from 1,081 a week earlier. Feinberg has rejected 265 total claims including 39 death claims. He has ruled 526 deficient, including 74 death claims. Another 396 claims are under review, including 42 death claims.

GM established the fund to provide compensation of those hurt or killed in 2.59 million now-recalled Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with defective ignition switches that can inadvertently turn the engine off and disable power steering and air bags. The automaker has said it expects to spend $400 million on claims, but has said it could rise as high as $600 million.

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.

Last month, Feinberg recommended and GM agreed to extend the deadline 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.