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GM Defective Ignition Switch Final Injury Claim Approved

Nine out of ten injury and death claims rejected by attorney for GM defective ignition switch compensation fund.

General Motor's compensation fund for injuries and deaths related to defective ignition switches has approved a final injury claim after spending nearly a year reviewing close to 4,400 claims. The final tally was 124 deaths, nearly 10 times more than the 13 deaths GM executives reported as the controversy unfolded in 2014. The fund also approved claims for 17 serious injuries and 258 less-serious injuries. In total, the fund run by Washington lawyer Ken Feinberg approved less than 10 percent of all claims. Some of those rejected were because the accidents were in cars not part of the recall. Others were rejected because there was no evidence that the air bags failed to deploy. The defective ignition switch defect -- mostly installed in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions -- allowed the key to inadvertently turn off the engine in some vehicles, disabling power steering and air bags. Because accident investigators, for a decade, didn't know of the flaw and may have attributed wrecks to other factors, it's impossible to say how many accidents, deaths and injuries were truly the result of the GM defective ignition switch. While the fund will approve no further claims, it has not yet determined the value of some of the deaths and injuries, or made offers to the victims or their survivors, Camille Biros, the fund's deputy administrator, said earlier this month. Victims or survivors have 90 days from receipt of an offer to decide if they will accept it. GM is paying at least $1 million in each death claim and gave Feinberg and his staff the final decision on approving or rejecting all claims. It placed no cap on the amount Feinberg could award, but he is not allowed to assess "punitive damages." When all cases are closed, GM expects it will have spent $625 million in compensation to those to whom offers have or will be made; it already has paid out $280 million in claims GM announced the compensation fund in June 2014 and it began accepting claims Aug. 1, 2014. The claims deadline was Jan. 31, after GM extended the application period by a month. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said the "burden of proof on the individual consumer was always too high," and that some may not have pursued claims because they didn't have supporting documents. "The entire program was designed to help get Congress and the Justice Department off GM's back," Ditlow said. "The one thing is clear that we will never know how many people were killed or injured because it goes back so far." Feinberg will release a report that is expected to answer some key questions about the program, including why it rejected nine of every 10 claims as well as demographic characteristics of those that were approved. Wrapping up the compensation is a major milestone as GM looks to put the deadly ignition switch crisis in its rearview mirror. The U.S. Justice Department, meanwhile, is nearing a decision on whether to charge GM criminally in connection with a decade-long delay in admitting to the problem and recalling affected cars, even though some within the company were aware of it. GM also could face a fine expected to top $1.2 billion -- the amount Toyota Motor Corp. paid last year after it was charged with wire fraud. A decision is now not expected until at least late October. A version of this content was originally posted by David Shepardson on GM Defective Ignition Switch - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

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