GM Death Count Reaches 50 as Claim Deadline Approaches

Jan 26, 2015 03:58 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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The deaths of 50 people so far have been connected with faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, as confirmed by the compensation fund led by attorney Kenneth Feinberg.

That figure, which is already four times GM's estimate, could rise before the deadline to file claims passes on Jan. 31. Of the 338 death claims filed since August, 67 are still under review, while Feinberg is working with another 53 applicants, reported.

More deaths have been confirmed because he is looking at circumstantial evidence, not just "definitive proof," Feinberg told Bloomberg.

"GM engineers were looking for definitive proof of ignition switch failure," he said in an e-mail. "So of course there will be a greater number of eligible death claims."

The claim review process will continue "well into the spring," he said.

The compensation fund has altogether received 3,038 claims that are related to problematic ignition switches.

The automaker, which recalled around 30 million vehicles altogether last year, has set aside about $600 million to provide monetary restitution to those injured and the families of those killed. Each life could be valued between $5 million and $13 million.

"The fund represents the carmaker's effort to settle rather than litigate over faulty switches," Bloomberg reported. "Victims taking money from GM must agree not to sue the automaker. Including deaths, Feinberg has so far judged 125 switch claimants as eligible for payment."

GM recently filed a document with federal regulators showing that around 900,000 GM vehicles that may have faulty switches are still in use. Installed in small models such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, the switches could turn off the engine while the vehicle was moving, simultaneously disabling the air bags.

The recall affected around 2.59 million cars and was the catalyst for a record year of auto safety campaigns that saw carmakers recall more than 60 million vehicles in the United States in 2014.

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