The death toll in the ignition switch defect found in General Motor’s vehicles has risen from 13 to 19, according to the chief of GM’s victim settlement fund.
GM and Ken Feinberg, a compensation expert hired by GM to create the claims and evaluation process, expected the death toll to rise as more people filed claims. Each of the families that file a legitimate claim against GM for the death of a family member will receive at least $1 million.
The higher figure came after GM worked hard to downplay number of people who had died as a result of the ignition switch. GM’s Chief Executive, Mary Barra, later established a victim compensation fund and hired Ken Feinberg to determine who was injured or killed as a result of the ignition switch defect.
To date, the compensation fund has reviewed 445 claims. Nineteen of the claims were deemed deaths. There were also 12 legitimate injury claims that were filed. So far, no one has accepted the settlement from GM or signed a waiver agreeing to not sue the company.
GM has set aside $400 million in the compensation fund. Ken Feinberg will not state how much each victim will receive, although the minimum for a death case like this is $1 million. Funds have not been capped yet, and some analysts think that there may need to be an additional $200 million set aside.
The faulty ignition switch can slip from “Run” to “Accessory,” switching off the power to essential safety features, such as the airbags and steering.
GM is undergoing several civil and criminal investigations. One of those investigations is looking into why the company waited almost 11 years before recalling the 2.6 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches.
GM has fired 15 employees and disciplined five others in relation to this recall. The company has also been fined $35 million by the U.S. Transportation Department. Product injury lawyers continue to battle to get money for the victims in this case.