The number of fatalities connected to the defective General Motors ignition switches is up to 49 as a compensation deadline approaches for those who were injured in car accidents caused by the faulty switches that shut off airbags.
According to a report in USA Today, GM says that as of January 15, it has fixed 1.26 million of the vehicles, roughly 65 percent of the 1.95 small cars such as Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion that it recalled because the switches can fail and shut off power to the engine and the airbags.
January 31 is the deadline to seek compensation on behalf of victims of car accidents linked to the faulty switches.
Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the compensation fund, came up with his own formula for determining which of the deaths can be legitimately blamed on the ignition switches.
Number of Fatalities Up
Initially GM said there were only 13 fatalities linked to the defective ignition switches. The automaker included only people in the front seats of GM cars involved in front-end collisions.
Feinberg’s approach is more expansive, which means he included any people in any seats in any vehicles involved in a collision linked to the defective GM switches.
The defective switches were installed in Cobalt, Saturn Ion, Pontiac G5 and others from 2001 through 2011. By Feinberg’s calculations, the number of deaths linked to the defective GM switches has risen to 49.
The fund reports that it has approved payments for 49 deaths out of 311 claims. Of those another 49 were deemed “ineligible” and the remainder are still under consideration.
Seven out of 207 claims have been approved for catastrophic and crippling injuries while another 37 have been rejected.
For “lesser” injuries, 65 out of 2,300 claims have been approved and 234 rejected, according to the news report.
Lack of Action from GM
The fact remains that GM has known about the ignition problems for more than a decade, but did absolutely nothing about it. GM first knew about the switch problem in 2001 during development of the Saturn Ion small car.
It resurfaced in 2004 in the Chevy Cobalt, but investigations later showed that GM did not make that knowledge public as it should have. The automaker was fined $35 million by federal regulators for failing to report the fault within five business days as the law requires.
As auto product liability attorneys who have represented victims and families, we certainly hope GM is held fully accountable and that those who have lost so much are fairly and fully compensated.