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Victim's Compensation Expert Raises GM Death Toll to 21

The compensation expert chosen by General Motors has increased the number of deaths attributed to defective ignition switches to 21. The number is expected to rise higher. The victim's compensation fund has now received 143 claims involving a traffic fatality and a total of 675 claims involving injuries caused by the defective switches. The fund manager, Kenneth Feinberg, plans to provide weekly updates concerning claims tied to the defect.

The compensation fund will continue to accept claims through the end of 2014. It does not cover the full range of recalled GM vehicles. It is limited to 2.6 million small GM vehicles, including Chevy Cobalts and Saturn Ions, known to have included the defective switches. The fund is not capped and it is not clear how much compensation will be paid out to victims of the faulty vehicles.

Despite the increasing death toll, no claims have been fully reviewed yet and no payments have been issued. Initial offers are expected to be released this week. Any victim accepting such an offer will waive the right to pursue litigation against General Motors. Claims involving a traffic fatality are subject to an automatic increase of $1 million on top of whatever amount is awarded by the fund.

The establishment of the victim's compensation fund followed harsh criticism of GM's handling of the wide-spread defect. Reports of the defect persisted for more than 10 years prior to the most recent vehicle recalls. GM has now recalled more than 29 million vehicles in 2014 alone, although not all were recalled for defective ignition switches.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "GM Ignition Switch Death Toll Rises to 21," by Jeff Bennett, 22 September 2014

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