Death toll from defective GM ignition switches rises to 100
The death toll from faulty ignition switches in small cars made by General Motors has reached 100.
The families of the victims are being offered compensation by Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM last year. In addition, GM has agreed to make offers to 184 people who were injured in crashes caused by the switches in older-model cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt.
GM recalled 2.6 million of the cars last year, but acknowledged it knew about problems with the switches for more than a decade.
Through much of last year, the company had blamed the switches for 13 deaths but conceded the toll would rise. During a Congressional hearing in June, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, said the death toll could rise to 100 based on lawsuits and media reports.
The "grim milestone" revives concerns about automakers quickly sharing information with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and for the agency to analyse data and promptly take action, DeGette said in a statement. "As we have seen with the problems with GM's ignition switches, these failures can compound and bring tragic consequences for far too many innocent people," she said.
The switches can slip out of the "on" position, causing the cars to stall, disabling some important safety features.
Feinberg has said each validated death claim would start at US$1 million and rise depending on the circumstances of the crash. The company, he said, would pay claims regardless of whether the victims contributed to the cause of the crash.
Feinberg's compensation fund received 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline, and about 14 percent of those are still under review. A total of 1,759 have been deemed ineligible, and another 1,633 were deficient or turned in without documentation.
GM paid US$200 million to settle claims filed with Feinberg as of March 31, according to its quarterly report. The company set aside US$550 million to pay claims and says that number could rise to US$600 million. Feinberg says there is no cap on the total amount of money he can pay out.
So far, Feinberg has made 193 compensation offers and 140 have been accepted. Five have been rejected, leaving 48 outstanding, according to Camille Biros, deputy administrator of the compensation program for Feinberg. She said their goal is to finish making all compensation offers by mid-summer.