Faulty ignition switches in General Motors cars have led to the deaths of 80 people and injured 148.
The faulty ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars can slip out of the “on” position, thereby stopping the engine, cutting off the power steering, and turning off the air bags. It can also cut off the brakes.
A lawsuit brought by the family of one of the fatalities against General Motors led to a settlement in which the company paid the plaintiffs $5m.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs discovered that General Motors had secretly upgraded its ignition switches without changing the part’s identification number, thereby making it more difficult to identify the causes of many accidents.
The family then sued a second time, claiming that General Motors had knowingly sold unsafe cars.
However, the second lawsuit was withdrawn after the company formed a compensation fund.
Last year General Motors backed an investigation into who knew what about the faulty ignition switches.
The investigation found that several engineers and attorneys knew for over a decade but had failed to report the problem to the upper echelons of the company.
General Motors has agreed to compensate those injured, and also compensate the families of those killed.
The corporation has hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros to arrange the compensation deal.
The compensation fund received 4,342 claims by the deadline of January 31.
The number of related deaths may increase further as more than 1,200 claims are still under review including 91 death claims.
In order to be eligible for compensation, a claimant must prove that the airbag did not deploy, and that the faulty ignition switch was the primary reason for the failure.
Acceptance of compensation is voluntary, and is conditional on waiving the right to sue the company.