General Motors Says 49 Deaths Now Linked to Faulty Switches

Jan 20, 2015 01:15 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

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General Motors' compensation program for ignition switch defects in its cars has determined that 49 deaths, seven severe injuries and 65 other injuries were eligible to be compensated.

This means, overall, the number of claims determined to be eligible for compensation rose to 121 from 112 over the last week, according to Reuters.

The Detroit automaker has received 108 claims for compensation for ignition switch defects in its vehicles the past week, causing the total to jump to 2,818, according to lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, hired by GM to administer the program.

GM has received approximately 311 claims for death, 207 for catastrophic injuries and 2,300 for less-serious injuries that required hospitalization as of January 16, Feinberg said, according to Reuters.

As of Jan. 15, GM has repaired 1.26 million of the recalled vehicles, or 64.8 percent of the 1.95 million small vehicles it called back since the switches can fail and kill power to the engine and airbags, putting drivers and occupants in harm's way.

The automaker has repaired a total of 1.51 million, or 64.2 percent of the 2.35 million vehicles recalled in North America, when including vehicles from Mexico and Canada, according to USA Today.

Most companies pursue recalls aggressively for around 18 months, and an 80 percent success rate at that time would be common.

Company spokesman Alan Adler recently said that the repair rate is "ahead" of what GM usually experiences, and he believes at least 99 percent of owners have been notified of the recall.

Those who are looking for compensation on behalf of victims of crashes linked to the faulty switches have until Jan. 31. The original deadline was December 31, but GM decided to extend it to give people enough time.

Still, Feinberg believes it could take months after the deadline to finish all the paperwork and to make payments, according to USA Today.

GM was aware of the issue as far back as 2001 during development of the Saturn Ion small car. The issue showed up again in 2004 as engineers finalized the Chevrolet Cobalt. 

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