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GM Ignition Switch Linked to 80 Deaths; About 70% of Vehicles Now Repaired

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The number of deaths linked with the General Motors (GM) ignition switch defect continues to rise. As of the first week in April, a total of 80 death claims and 148 injury claims had been approved for payment through an independent settlement fund established back in August 2014.

Though the fund is now closed to any additional filings, legal professionals are still reviewing the last of the claims that were submitted through the end of January 2015.

Settlement Fund Approves 80 Death Claims

GM established the fund to help offset the personal injury lawsuits filed against them in both state and federal courts. (All federal cases were consolidated into the Southern District of New York in June 2014.) Claimants who accept settlement payments through the fund give up their rights to file individual lawsuits elsewhere.

When GM first started recalling vehicles last February 2014 because of ignition switch problems, they acknowledged only 13 deaths linked to the defect. That number has continued to increase and will likely do so for a few more months as the remaining claims are processed. A total of about 1,200 are still under review.

So far, according to the Detroit Free Press, 93 claimants have accepted settlement offers. Five have rejected them (leaving them eligible to pursue litigation elsewhere), and the rest are still considering the offers.

Ignition Switch Repairs Reportedly Going Well

A little over a year after they started recalling their vehicles, GM stated that about 70 percent of them have been repaired. This, according to Fox News.

The company claims to have repaired about 1.6 million of the roughly 2.3 million worldwide that are registered and still in use. They have had their dealers call car owners to encourage them to bring their vehicles in to be fixed, and have also used Facebook messages and personal letters to expand awareness.

The NHTSA also praised GM recently during a speech in New York, noting their efforts to be sure dealers don’t sell affected vehicles until they have been repaired. GM’s computer systems alert dealers if one of their cars has an outstanding recall. The system also blocks dealers from making requests for company rebates and other incentives until the repair is completed.

GM Accused of Dragging Its Feet In Recalls and Repairs

Plaintiffs involved in litigation against GM claim the company was aware of the ignition switch defect for a decade before they took actionable steps to correct it. As far back as 2004, company engineers noticed the ignition switches could inadvertently turn to the “off” position. If this happened while someone was driving the vehicle, it would rob the brakes, steering, and air bags of power, which could prove disastrous in an accident.

The company was also criticized for failing to respond quickly enough with recall repairs. GM claimed they were struggling to find enough replacement parts, and had to crank up manufacturing to meet demand. It wasn’t until October of 2014 that they were able to fully supply dealerships with the parts they needed.