Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

GM Ignition Switch Defect Deaths Reach 100

Last year, General Motors insisted that only 13 deaths were linked to its ignition switch defects.

This week, the GM ignition switch death toll has reached 100, seven times higher than GM's initial claims, according to the Consumerist.

The Defect

Last year, GM recalled 2.6 million cars for a defective ignition switch. However, GM allegedly knew about the defect as early as in 2003 or 2004 and successfully covered it up for more than a decade.

The ignition switches were defective because they could slip out of the "on" position while the car was in motion. This would stall the car, disable the airbags, and cause car crashes.

In the aftermath of an internal investigation, GM fired 15 employees, overhauled its engineering operations, and changed its safety protocols. GM paid federal regulators a $35 million fine for failing to report the defect in a timely manner, and the company is still under investigation by the Justice Department.

Claims and Adjudication

Last August, GM opened a compensation fund to make payments to people injured or killed by the defect. By the time the claim acceptance window closed in January of this year, the fund received 4,180 claims.

Of those claims, 1,759 claims have been denied. More than 1,600 claims were deficient or did not have supporting documentations. The fund has already approved payment for 100 deaths and 184 injuries, and 37 death claims and 589 injury claims are still under review.

According to Camille Biros, deputy manager of the compensation fund, many of the approved death claims involved younger victims in the teens and early 20s. With compensation for death claims starting at $1 million per claim, GM has already paid $200 million to settle approved claims. The company has set aside $550 million dollars for the fund, but expects that total compensation cost could be as high as $600 million.

Litigation

The window to file a claim with the compensation fund has closed, and people who have received compensation from the fund waive their right to litigate against GM.

However, if you've missed filing a claim, but believe you or a family member may have been injured or killed because of G.M.'s defective ignition switch, you may still be able to pursue a claim in court. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you assess your claim.

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