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19 death claims due to GM faulty ignition switch approved for special compensation so far

2007 Cobalt, one of the recalled models

For months, General Motors has estimated 13 people were killed as a result of accidents linked to a faulty ignition switch in Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions, and some other small cars.

But it appears the estimate was low.

GM has established a special voluntary compensation program for victims or families of victims who can prove serious or fatal accidents were linked to the defective switch.

The program began taking claims on August 1.

Independent program manager Kenneth Feinberg announced Monday he has approved compensation for the families of 19 people believed killed because of the faulty switch.

And hundreds more claims remain to be considered, including  106 cases that allege a fatality and 54 that allege a severe injury.   The claim deadline is December 31, and Feinberg says he hopes to have a decision on all claims by the middle of 2015.

Since the ignition switch recall in late January, General Motors has recalled 26.7 million vehicles in the U.S for numerous problems, including some additional ignition switch defects.

But the company says the special compensation program will only apply to the original ignition switch defect, because it is an unusual situation. 

GM admits it delayed the recall for more than ten years, and an internal investigation found a "pattern of incompetence and neglect" involving the delay.

As of September 12, 2014, the program is assessing 414 claims, 106 alleging a fatality, 54 alleging a severe injury such as quadriplegia, paraplegia, limb amputation, or brain damage, and 254 alleging an injury that required medical treatment within 48 hours of the accident.

The program has determined 19 fatality claims eligible, 4 severe injury claims eligible, and 8 claims requiring medical treatment eligible.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.