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GM ignition switch death toll rises to 45

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

General Motors Co.’s ignition switch compensation fund said Monday it has approved three new death claims and 9 injury claims — with about three weeks left for owners and relatives to submit claims.

In total, GM compensation adviser Kenneth Feinberg has approved claims for 45 fatalities and 67 injury claims linked to defective ignition switches.

The number of death claims rose to 303 and serious injury claims rose to 202. Feinberg has declared 320 ineligible — including 49 death claims — while 738 claims are still under review and 783 have been submitted without documentation.

Last month, Camille Biros, the deputy administrator of the compensation fund, said it has made 65 compensation offers and 41 have been accepted. None have been rejected.

GM set up the fund to compensate 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 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.

In November, 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.