The number of deaths attributable to the faulty ignition switches in the 2.6 million vehicles recalled by General Motors has hit 100.
According to the latest update from Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator the $550 million victims fund established by the automaker, the number of death claims rose this week by three. There are 37 applications still to be considered after 227 have been denied. The automaker said it has repaired between 70 and 75% of the vehicles.
In addition to the claims for death benefits, Feinberg’s staff approved 12 claims for people who suffered lost limbs, brain damage or pervasive burns in crashes, which are described as Category One. The claims for another 172 people who suffered less severe injuries that required hospitalization or outpatient treatment have also been approved, also known as Category Two injuries.
The fund, which stopped accepting claims at the end of January, has received 4,342 claims for benefits: 474 death benefits, 289 Category One injuries and 3,579 more for Category Two injuries. The fund still has a total 589 injury claims to review.
The fund was initially established with $400 million, but the automaker noted it could rise as high as $600 million, although GM CEO Mary Barra said there would ultimately be no limit on the fund. GM raised it to the current level of $550 million last month.
The problem with the switches is sometimes they slipped from the “on” to the “accessory” position causing a loss of power to the vehicles’ steering and airbags resulting in a loss of control of the vehicle that caused accidents where the airbags didn’t deploy.
After a lengthy investigation it was determined that some GM engineers knew about the problem as early as 2003. The automaker finally began recalling the cars after pressure from federal regulators and the public mounted.
However, the company is also dealing with a series of lawsuits related to the switches as well. The company recently scored a major victory in its effort to shield itself from those lawsuits linked to the switches it used in older vehicles.
(Court upholds GM’s bankruptcy shield from death claims. For more, Click Here.)
A federal judge has ruled the “new GM” is not liable for death and injury claims for crashes that occurred prior to the automaker’s emergence from bankruptcy in July 2009 – even in the event of misconduct by the “old GM.” But ruling from the federal bench in New York, Judge Robert Gerber did say owners could seek damages if they prove vehicles equipped with those switches have lost value since GM exited Chapter 11.
(Click Here for details about GM execs being deposed for ignition switch lawsuits.)
The automaker hailed the news, which, it said, “doesn’t establish any liability against GM.” It also noted that the burden will be on plaintiffs to prove any new claims for losses.
(To see more about GM engaging in a cover up of the ignition switch problem, Click Here.)
By various estimates, GM could be spared anywhere from $7 billion to $10 billion in potential legal liabilities from those whose death or injury might have been linked to one of the vehicles equipped with a faulty ignition switch.