The families of at least 100 people who died in crashes caused by faulty General Motors ignition switches will be offered compensation by the company.
The number revealed Monday by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, is the first acknowledgement by the company that the defective switches have caused at least 100 deaths. The total stood at 97 as of last week.
Through much of last year, GM had blamed the switches for 13 deaths but conceded the toll would rise. During a Congressional hearing on the switches in June, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said the death toll could rise to 100 based on lawsuits and media reports.
Feinberg has said each validated death claim would start at $1-million and rise depending on the circumstances of the crash. The company, he said, would pay claims regardless of whether the victims contributed to the cause of the crash.
In addition, GM has agreed to make offers to another 184 people who were injured in crashes caused by the switches in older-model small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt.
Feinberg's compensation fund received 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline, and about 14 per cent of those are still under review. A total of 1,759 have been deemed ineligible, and another 1,633 were deficient or turned in without documentation.
GM knew about defective switches for more than a decade but recalled them only last year. The switches can slip out of the "on" position, causing the cars to stall, disabling some important safety features.
GM paid $200-million to settle claims filed with Feinberg as of March 31, according to its quarterly report to U.S. securities regulators. The company set aside $550-million for Feinberg to pay claims and says that number could rise to $600-million. Feinberg says there is no cap on the total amount of money he can pay out.
So far, Feinberg has made 193 compensation offers and 140 have been accepted. Five have been rejected, leaving 48 outstanding, according to Camille Biros, deputy administrator of the compensation program for Feinberg.