GM ignition fund approves three new deaths to 87

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 87 deaths.

The fund didn’t approve any new injury claims. Of the 157 injury claims approved, 11 are for serious injuries and 146 are for less severe injuries. All of the new approvals were for less serious injuries.

Deputy GM ignition fund administrator Camille Biros said earlier this month the fund has made 126 offers to those found eligible; 93 have been accepted and five have been rejected. Seventy-three claims have been paid. 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 Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with ignition switches that can inadvertently shut off the engine and disable power steering and air bags. GM 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 1,085 claims are still under review, including 71 death claims. A total of 1,335 claims have been ruled ineligible, including 106 deaths. Of the claims, 537 have been submitted without documentation.

A surge in claims before the Jan. 31 deadline means the program will take until at least “very late spring” to rule on all the claims. 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 in March declined to offer any update on whether the claims would remain in that range.

GM paid a then record-setting $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its delayed recall by more than a decade of the cars. It also faces investigations by several government agencies and Transport Canada. It also faces hundreds of lawsuits — including many by owners of now-recalled cars seeking compensation for what they believe is the diminished value of the vehicles.