The number of people who have died in accidents that have been linked with General Motors’ faulty ignition switch is higher than the automaker’s initial estimate and will likely go up, according independent administrators who have been tasked with handling the claims process.
According to an ABC news report, GM had previously estimated that 13 people died as a result of faulty ignition switches.
However, Ken Feinberg, the independent administrator of the automaker’s compensation program announced that 19 are eligible for a claim.
The Issue of Proximate Cause
Feinberg said he is looking at it from the point of view of: Was the ignition switch a “substantive factor in” or the “proximate cause” of the accident?
The administrators say they used the legal standard of “proximate cause,” which includes various forms of circumstantial evidence, photos, repair records and insurance company reports.
The compensation program was launched in August and is open for submission until the end of the year. Administrators of the program say they expect the number of deaths to go up even more by the time they are done with the process.
The claim program got 445 applications for compensation from GM including 125 claims that a death resulted from the GM ignition switch defects.
Federal Agency’s Rankings Questioned
An article published by The New York Times last week also questioned vehicle safety rankings posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Times reports that GM published an article in February about a five-star safety rating for its 2014 Chevys.
The very next day, the automaker recalled millions of its cars for the deadly ignition defects and by August, six of the eight five-star Chevy models had been recalled for various safety defects including those involving airbags, brakes and steering.
The Times article states that NHTSA has a record of missteps that goes beyond its failure to detect GM’s ignition defects. The newspaper’s investigation shows that the agency has been, over the years, slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.
NHTSA not only failed to take action with GM, but also other issues in the past such as Toyota sudden acceleration, fires in Jeep fuel tanks and Honda airbag ruptures – all of which involves serious injuries and fatalities.
Holding Automakers Accountable
Our auto defect legal team agrees that the number of GM ignition defects has been downplayed significantly by the automaker.
Our law firm represented the family members of Shara Lynn Towne, the first known victim to be fatally injured as a result of GM ignition defects. Our thoughts and prayers go out to each and every family that has filed claims against GM.
We hope they receive the justice and fair compensation they rightfully deserve and that GM is held accountable for dragging its feet on this important safety recall.