'Switchgate' Death Toll Hits 50; GM Declines To Extend Claim Deadline Past Saturday

January 29, 2015

Last summer, General Motors created a compensation fund for motorists and passengers who'd been injured or killed in accidents linked to the automaker's flawed ignition switches. By December, the fund's administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, had approved a total of 42 wrongful death claims and 58 to cover injuries.

According to Detroit News, the number of deaths officially linked to the faulty switches has now risen to 50. The number of injuries has reached 75, with seven classified as "very serious".

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Those numbers could go much, much higher, because the total number of claims on file has passed the 3,000 mark. Of that number, 338 are related to fatalities, while 224 are linked to serious injuries. Feinberg and his staff have dismissed 386 claims as ineligible, but they're still reviewing 802, and an additional 847 sit in a corner, awaiting further documentation.

That should keep them busy for some time -- even if GM sticks to its Saturday filing deadline of January 31.

Not that some legislators aren't requesting an extension. According to Auto NewsU.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) have sent a letter to GM's CEO, Marry Barra, asking the automaker to give potential claimants more time to file.

How much more time would they like? Blumenthal and Markey have asked GM to continue accepting claims until (a) the Department of Justice wraps its criminal investigation of GM's actions leading up to the "Switchgate" recall, and (b) a bankruptcy court determines whether "new" GM is protected from problems that happened on "old" GM's watch.

In their letter, the Senators criticized GM's outreach efforts. They noted that the family of one woman who died as a result of GM's faulty ignition switches didn't find out about the compensation fund until family members were contacted by a New York Times reporter in November. 

GM, however, isn't inclined to extend the deadline a second time. In a statement, the automaker said that it wants to be "just and timely" in compensating victims and that "we do not plan another extension". 

Stay tuned.


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