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Death toll from defective GM vehicle parts continues to rise

DETROIT - At least 77 people were killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors (GM) ignition switches.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total Monday. It was up from 74 last week. An additional 141 injured people also are eligible for compensation.

The fund received a total of 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline. Of those, 1,263 are still under review. Feinberg says more than half are ineligible or lack documentation.

General Motors' handling of defect criticized in Washington

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.

Last year GM set aside $400 million to make payments, but conceded that could grow to $600 million. The company's chief financial officer told analysts earlier this month that those numbers have not changed. Compensation for deaths starts at $1 million.

The GM ignition switch debacle, which brought congressional and Justice Department investigations and the maximum $35 million fine from the government's auto safety agency, touched off a companywide safety review. That brought a total of 84 recalls involving more than 30 million vehicles.

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