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GM ignition switch death toll at 51

DETROIT – More than 1,100 claims were filed in the week before Saturday’s deadline to seek payments from the General Motors ignition-switch compensation fund. So far, 51 death and 77 injury claims have been granted.

But the fund’s deputy administrator says the number of granted claims is likely to rise as she and her boss, compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, sort through at least 4,180 claims that came before the deadline passed.

The last-minute flurry of activity is common in compensation cases, said Deputy Administrator Camille Biros, who has worked with Feinberg on funds for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the BP oil spill. Although most of the claims were filed electronically, some will “trickle in” in the coming days because they were postmarked by the Jan. 31 deadline, she said.

“I can say that there will likely be more” death and injury claims granted, Biros said. “Until we sort through and review the newly submitted documents, we can’t make that estimation.”

GM was aware of faulty ignition switches on Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade, but it didn’t recall them until 2014. On 2.6 million of them worldwide, the switches can slip out of the “on” position, causing the cars to stall, knocking out power steering and turning off the air bags.

As of Sunday, the fund had received 455 death claims and 3,447 for injuries. Of the total, Feinberg has decided that about 12 percent, or 482, aren’t eligible for payment. Another 965 have deficient information, while 1,502 were turned in without documentation. Another 1,103 claims are under review, according to a posting on the fund’s website.

People will be given several chances to provide information to back up their claims, Biros said. Most of the claims that have been denied were not models covered by the fund or the air bags inflated in the crashes. If the air bags deployed, that means the cars had power and the ignition switches were working and not at fault, Feinberg has said.

About 40 claims have been paid thus far, but Biros would not say how much money had been paid out. GM also would not say how much the company has paid thus far.

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