GM ignition death toll hits 50

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — General Motors Co.’s ignition compensation fund said Monday it has approved one more death claim, bringing to 50 the total of fatalities attributed to the faulty switches.

GM compensation adviser Kenneth Feinberg also approved as approved 50 death claims, one more than the previous week, along with three new injury claims, bringing that total to 75. Of that injury total, seven are for very serious injuries and 68 are for minor injuries.

The number of death claims rose to 338, up 27, and serious injury claims rose to 224, up 17. Feinberg has declared 386 ineligible, including 58 death claims, while 802 claims are still under review and 847 have been submitted without documentation.

The number of total claims has now topped 3,000 with just five days remaining to file new claims.

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

GM set up the fund to compensate those hurt — or the families of those 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. Asked if GM expected that figure to rise, GM CEO Mary Barra said earlier this month that the company hadn't changed its guidance.

In May, GM paid a record $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the ignition switch recall that was delayed by nearly a decade, and agreed to up to three years of intense oversight by the safety agency.

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. Barra fired at least 15 people in the aftermath of a scathing internal report written by an outside law firm and is searching for a new general counsel. GM made significant changes to its safety recall review process in the wake of the recalls.

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.

Feinberg has said it could take six months to complete the review of all applications once the final claims are submitted, meaning it may not be until summer before the final tallies are known.