September 22, 2014 / 5:29 PM / in 3 years

Deaths linked to GM ignition-switch defect rise to 21

(Reuters) - The number of deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors Co GM.N vehicles rose by two last week to 21, according to a report Monday from a lawyer overseeing a program to compensate victims of accidents caused by the recalled part.

A recalled Chevy Cobalt ignition switch is seen at Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Illinois, July 17, 2014. REUTERS/John Gress

Since Aug. 1, 675 claims for serious injuries or deaths said to have been caused by the switch had been received by the program, which is being overseen by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. As of Friday, 21 death claims had been deemed eligible, as well as 16 claims for serious physical injuries, according to statistics provided by Feinberg’s office.

The program will continue to receive applications until Dec. 31 on behalf of individuals injured or killed in accidents they say were caused by the switch, which led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year. A problem with the switch can cause it to slip out of position, stalling the vehicle and disabling air bags.

Last week, in the first update since the program began accepting claims, Feinberg’s office reported approving 19 death claims, more than the 13 deaths the company has officially acknowledged as being linked to the switch. As of Friday, a total of 143 death claims had been submitted to the program.

A GM spokesman, Dave Roman, said the company accepted Feinberg’s determinations and that the company’s figures for switch-related accidents had been reached using “very different criteria from the compensation program.” The company’s goal is to reach as many eligible people as possible, he said in a statement.

Claims that have not been approved yet have either been deemed ineligible, are awaiting further documentation or are still under review, according to Feinberg’s office. Claims are still being submitted and some attorneys representing switch victims have said they are still receiving and vetting potential new claims.

The amount of compensation per claim has not been capped. Under the program’s protocol, eligible death claims will receive at least $1 million, which could increase depending on factors such as whether the deceased had any dependants. GM has set aside $400 million to cover the compensation costs.

Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Steve Orlofsky

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