The team handling the fund established by General Motors completed processing the more than 4,300 claims submitted, denying 91% of them.
GM recalled nearly 2.6 million small cars last year due to a faulty ignition switch. The switch allowed the ignition to move from the “on” to the “accessories” position, cutting the power to the car’s power steering and airbag.
Led by Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney who oversaw similar funds for BP, 9/11 victims and other events, the fund approved 399 of the 4,343 claims filed and rejected 3,944.
Camille Biros, deputy administrator of the fund, said the claims that were rejected “couldn’t support any connection to the ignition switch.”
She noted that some of the issues that leading to denials included filings for vehicles that were not part of the recall or factors that indicated the car’s safety systems, such as the airbag, functioned properly indicating there was no problem with the ignition switch.
GM originally said it knew of only 13 deaths related to the switches — meaning Feinberg’s office determined the actual death numbers were nearly 10 times higher.
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Under the rules imposed Feinberg, successful claimants has to surrender their rights to sue GM as part of the settlement. GM has set aside $625 million to pay victims. The fund has paid out $280 million thus far, according to the company.
GM has acknowledged it identified the problems with the ignition switch as early as 2001 in a pre-production report for the model year 2003 Saturn Ion, according to documents provided last year to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The report said a design change resolved the problem.
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However, issues persisted, and in 2004 GM opened an engineering inquiry to look into a complaint that a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt vehicle could be turned off while driving. Ultimately, no action was taken. A year later, the driver of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt was killed in a crash that would later be linked to the faulty ignition switch.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation determined the frontal airbag system didn’t deploy and that the vehicle power mode status was in “accessory,” not “run.”
(For more about the GM ignition switch recall and the compensation fund, Click Here.)
In June 2014, GM chief executive officer Mary Barra dismissed 15 employees deemed responsible for failing to address the problem when it first surfaced during the various engineering studies. The company is also facing more than 180 wrongful death or injury lawsuits related to the problem.
Joseph Szczesny contributed to this report.