General Motors confirms at least 19 dead in faulty-ignition crashes

  • AFP, New York
  • Updated: Sep 15, 2014 22:05 IST

General Motors acknowledged on Monday that more people died in crashes linked to its faulty ignitions than the 13 it originally reported, saying 19 death claims were approved for compensation.

In its first report on processing compensation requests for the problem, GM said it had received claims for 125 deaths, another 58 for crippling injuries and 262 for hospitalization stemming from ignition-related accidents.

Of those, it has so far determined 31 claims eligible for compensation, including 19 of the death claims.

GM said Monday that the rest of the claims are either still awaiting review or are judged deficient and needing more documentation, with independent compensation claims expert Kenneth Feinberg in charge of deciding which claims are valid.

In the base plan announced by Feinberg on June 30, for each eligible death claim, GM will pay a minimum $1 million for the victim, $300,000 for the surviving spouse and another $300,000 for each surviving dependent.

Financial and medical treatment compensation of at least $20,000 will also be offered to those with eligible physical injury claims from an accident.

GM set up the program earlier this year after recalling 2.6 million cars over the problem, in which the faulty ignition could turn off power to a car's power steering and safety airbags while it is in motion.

GM knew about the problem for a decade or more, but only took recall action beginning in February, after hundreds of possible accidents and deaths in the affected cars.

Before Monday the largest US automaker had only acknowledged 45 accidents and 13 deaths.

The independent Center for Auto Safety says it has counted more than 300 deaths linked to air bag non-deployment in the GM cars covered by the ignition recall, though it has not tied those to ignition shutdowns.

Lawyers for many victims have already filed a number of class-action suits that could cost the company far more than its promised payouts under the compensation program.

But the program offers victims the promise of earlier payouts. if they give up their right to sue once their claim has been accepted.

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