GM report cites more death claims in recalled cars – USA TODAY

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014

General Motors tells federal safety regulators in a routine quarterly filing that it has reports of more deaths in the small cars it recalled earlier this year for defective ignition switches.

The reports are raw data, GM cautions, neither investigated nor verified.

They do not mean GM has upped its official count of fatalities linked to the recalled cars, though GM CEO Mary Barra has said the total eventually could go higher.

The Early Warning Report, required quarterly by all car companies to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lists 17 deaths and 167 injuries in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions reported to GM in the first quarter, according to a tally published today by trade publication Automotive News.

GM said it has no reason to doubt that count.

Those two vehicles made up most of the 2.19 million 2003 through 2011 small cars recalled by GM in February and March for defective ignition switches that could disable air bags. GM has linked 13 deaths to the recalled cars.

Regardless of whether the recently reported deaths can be directly tied to the GM recall, they show that the the case seems to be following a frequent pattern: High-profile recalls tend to generate growing numbers of death and injury reports.

In the Toyota unintended-acceleration recall, for example, Toyota critics were claiming that more than 100 people had been killed in runaway Toyota vehicles. A special investigation by NHTSA, however, found only five deaths it could unquestionably attribute to the stuck-throttle problem.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the reports it compiles and sends to NHTSA quarterly come from a variety of sources, including lawsuits, newspaper reports and direct complaints to the automaker.

Cain said, “If any of those people were injured, or suffered a loss of loved ones, because of the ignition switch, we want them to be part of the (victims) compensation fund.”

GM has established a victims fund and hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to administer it, independently. He and GM emphasize that it’s entirely up to him who gets paid and how much.

He has, however, set a formula involving the age of the victim, income at the time of the accident, and likely income over a lifetime. Examples he’s given have been from a few hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars.

Feinberg begins taking claims Aug. 1 and halts Dec. 31. He says all valid claims should be paid by the middle of next year.


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