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Number of Alleged GM Victims Climbing—29 Deaths at Last Count

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When General Motors (GM) first started recalling vehicles at the beginning of 2014 because of the ignition switch defect, they acknowledged 13 deaths associated with the problem. A June report in Reuters stated the number had gone up to 16.

Now, that number has gone up again, to 29.

Claims for 29 Deaths Approved for Settlement

GM started a settlement fund this past summer to compensate victims for injuries allegedly caused by the ignition switch defect. They began taking claims in August, and now, according to the Chicago Tribune, they have received over 1,500. A total of 56 of these have been ruled “eligible” for compensation, including 29 deaths and 27 injuries.

When GM first set up this fund, they made it clear that claimants would have to show that it was because of the ignition switch defect that they were injured, or that a family member was killed. In the affected vehicles, the switch could inadvertently move into the “off” position, robbing the air bags of power and potentially causing them to fail to deploy in an accident.

These 56 claimants have apparently succeeded at proving their cases, as they have been cleared for compensation, which can range from $20,000 to several million dollars.

GM Slow to Respond to Ignition Switch Defect

Other claims currently being reviewed for compensation include those involving other deaths, and those where plaintiffs suffered amputation, paralysis, serious burns, permanent brain damage, or other injuries requiring hospitalization. So far, GM has stated the fund will be open for applications until December 31, 2014. The numbers of deaths and injuries determined to be related to the defect are expected to continue to climb. Reuters states that GM has set aside at least $400 million to cover the costs of the settlements.

The company has been criticized for failing to take action much earlier on this issue. Evidence revealed in court suggests they knew about the problem as far back as 2004, but failed to implement a recall until the beginning of 2014. Instead, they issued band-aid fixes, which included sending letters to dealers telling them to inform customers that a “heavy” key ring was more likely to cause the defect to show up.

To date, GM has recalled about 30 million vehicles. Most of these are older models that the manufacturer no longer has available.

Injured Individuals May Be Eligible to File a Lawsuit

NPR provides an informative timeline on the GM recall, noting that it was 2001 when the company first detected the ignition switch problem “during pre-production testing of the Saturn Ion.” In 2005, they “rejected a proposal to fix the problem because it would be too costly and take too long.”

It wasn’t until February 2014 that the company, under the new leadership of Mary Barra, CEO, notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the defect in over 600,000 of its vehicles. It was shortly after that the company started implementing one of many recalls.

Individuals who were injured in an accident that involved one of the recalled vehicles may be eligible for compensation either through the GM settlement fund or through an individual personal injury lawsuit.