DETROIT (AP) — The death toll tied to faulty ignition switches in General Motors small cars has risen to 19, according to a compensation expert hired by the company. The number is likely to go higher.
Kenneth Feinberg said Monday that he has determined that 19 wrongful death claims are eligible for payments from GM. General Motors’ estimate of deaths has stood at 13 for months, although the automaker acknoledged the possibility of a higher count.
Feinberg received 125 death claims due to the faulty switches in older-model small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt. The rest remain under review or require further documentation, he said in a report issued Monday.
“The public report is simply reporting on those eligible to date,” Feinberg spokeswoman Camille Biros said in an e-mail. “There will certainly be others.”
GM has admitted knowing about the ignition switch problem for more than a decade. Yet it didn’t begin recalling the switches in 2.6 million small cars until earlier this year. The automaker hired Feinberg to compensate victims of crashes caused by the switches, and Feinberg has said GM has not limited the total amount he can pay. Some lawmakers have estimate the death toll is close to 100.
Biros, citing confidentiality agreements, said Feinberg will not identify any of those eligible for payments, nor will he say if the 19 deemed eligible include the 13 deaths that GM has documented. GM has not identified the 13 victims. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has not tallied the total number of deaths.
Biros said no claims have been rejected yet, although Feinberg is in the process of turning down a few because they don’t meet the requirements for compensation. Feinberg will issue reports each Monday on how many claims have been granted, she said.
Feinberg also has received 320 claims for compensation due to injuries. Of those, 12 have been deemed eligible for payments so far.
Of the injury claims, 58 were in the most serious category, seeking compensation for injuries resulting in loss of use of limbs, amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns, the Feinberg statement said. Another 262 claims are for less-serious injuries that required hospital stays or outpatient medical treatment within 48 hours of the crash.
The deadline for filing a claim is Dec. 31.
The faulty ignition switches can slip out of the “run” position into “accessory” or “off,” cutting off power to the engine. That can knock out power steering or brakes and disable the air bags if there’s a crash.
The ignition switch problem triggered a companywide safety review that has resulted in 29 million GM vehicles being recalled through August.
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