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GM fund approves 3 new death, 15 injury claims

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

General Motors Co.’s ignition switch compensation fund on Monday said it has approved three additional death claims linked to its delayed recall of 2.6 million cars, raising the latest total to 77 deaths.

The fund also said it approved 15 new injury claims. Of the 141 injury claims approved so far, 11 are for the most serious injuries and 130 are for less severe injuries. All of the new approvals were for less serious injuries.

The fund’s deputy administrator, Camille Biros, said earlier this month that the fund has extended 119 offers; 93 have been accepted and five have been rejected. Biros said 61 payments have been made or are in the process of being made. If a person or victim’s family accepts an award, the right to sue GM is forfeited.

GM initially said last year that 13 deaths were related to now-recalled Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with ignition switches that can inadvertently shut off the engine and disable power steering and air bags. The automaker delayed recalling the cars for nearly a decade after some within the company became aware there was a problem.

The fund is using a much broader definition to determine if deaths are related to the defect — including pedestrians who may have been killed as a result of a defective GM car.

In total, 4,342 claims were submitted by the Jan. 31 deadline, including 475 death claims. A total of 1,263 claims are still under review, including 89 death claims. Feinberg has ruled 1,173 total claims ineligible and 1,042 are currently listed as deficient. To date, 646 claims have been submitted without paperwork.

A surge in claims before the Jan. 31 deadline means the program will spend until at least “very late spring” before it can rule on all the claims, the fund run by compensation lawyer Ken Feinberg said last month. Feinberg has said it could take as long as six months from the time the program received the final claim for serious injuries or deaths.

GM will pay at least $1 million for each death claim.

GM set aside $400 million to pay claims but said it could be as high as $600 million. GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens earlier this month declined to offer any update on whether the claims would remain in that range.