87 Deaths Officially Linked to Defective GM Ignition Switches
General Motors has announced that the number of confirmed deaths caused by defective ignition switches in their vehicles has reached 87. The defective ignition switches were part of some very high-profile recalls starting in February 2014. By June 2014, the recalls grew to include over 29 million vehicles in North America alone, 17.1 million of which were over the faulty ignition switches.
The ignition switches in question had a flaw that could cause a car to suddenly go from “Drive” to “Accessory,” shutting the engine off and causing power steering and power brakes to fail, which could cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle. This was most likely to happen if the key in the ignition had extra weight attached to it, such as a keyring with other keys attached, or if the car encountered something jarring in the road like a railroad track or large pothole. It was later revealed that General Motors had known the ignition switch did not meet safety standards for over a decade, but they not only failed to recall impacted vehicles, but continued to use the switches in new vehicles.
Because of the exceptionally long delay in issuing the recalls, General Motors found themselves the subject of a federal investigation. General Motors later agreed to pay a $35 million fine to the Department of Transportation because of the delayed recall.
Ignition switch repairs first became available in April 2014. If your car was part of this recall and you have not yet had the repair made, it is recommended you remove the key from any keyrings before putting the key in the ignition.
General Motors set up a victim compensation fund and accepted claims from victims and family members of those who were injured or killed as a result of the faulty ignition switches. Claims were accepted between August 1, 2014 and January 31, 2015. Within their first week, 125 claims were submitted, 63 of which were regarding fatal accidents. Each claim is being investigated and if it is determined that the ignition switch did, indeed, cause the injury or death, General Motors will offer the applicant a settlement. If the settlement is accepted, applicants forfeit the ability to sue for any further damages. Currently, 126 offers have been made to qualified applicants and only five of those offers have been rejected.
A total of 4,342 claims have been made, 475 of which were about fatal accidents. So far, a total of 1,335 claims have been found to be ineligible and 1,085 claims are still being investigated. Because of an increase of claims being filed near the end of the deadline, it could take until late springtime for all claims to be investigated. It is estimated General Motors will end up spending between $400 million and $600 million to settle all claims. General Motors says all fatalities linked to the ignition switches will be compensated at least $1 million.