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GM ignition-flaw death toll seen rising as victims sought

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Published : 2014-03-16 20:45
Updated : 2014-03-16 20:45

The death toll related to an ignition flaw in eight small-car models that General Motors Co. sold a decade ago is likely to climb, say lawyers and safety advocates.

Automakers often make upward revisions to fatality figures related to recalls as they unearth fresh information, while attorneys are racing to line up plaintiffs seeking compensation for alleged wrongful deaths or injury. GM’s liabilities are also poised to rise as lawyers and safety advocates press the biggest U.S. automaker to pay restitution to victims even from before GM’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization, which shielded the new GM from the old company’s liabilities.

GM, which said it has identified 12 deaths in connection with the recall of 1.6 million models made in the mid-2000s ― including some Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs and other Opel, Pontiac and Saturn models ― has said it continues to review data and information related to the recall.

“For every incident that gets reported to the automaker, there are usually nine or 10 more,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group. “You can expect the number of deaths associated with this recall to rise.”

That happened with Toyota Motor Corp. As allegations of unintended acceleration led to publicity and Congressional hearings, the number of deaths U.S. regulators investigated in association with Toyota and Lexus models rose from a handful to at least 51. Five were confirmed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have been caused by mechanical failure. More wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed since the hearings ended.

The GM recall, and the multiple U.S. investigations that it has spurred, come as the company has sought to shed the “Government Motors” stigma tied to its $49.5 billion U.S. bailout. Since the U.S. sold its last GM shares in December, GM has named Mary Barra as chief executive officer, making her the first woman to lead a major automaker. (Bloomberg)

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