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51 Families Awarded Damages in Deadly GM Vehicle Crashes

FILE - A photo shows the steering wheel and ignition switch on a 2005 GM-produced Chevrolet Cobalt.

At least 51 families are getting damage settlements from the biggest U.S. automaker, General Motors, because of deadly crashes caused by defective ignition switches on small cars it manufactured a decade ago.

Seventy-seven injured people have also been awarded undisclosed compensation by independent administrators of a fund created by GM. The automaker knew about the ignition problem in 2.6 million vehicles for more than a decade, but did not recall the cars until early last year.

When the ignition switches malfunctioned, the vehicles' power steering, air bags and other electrical features were disabled.

The number of payments could increase significantly in the coming months.

Nearly 4,200 motorists and their families filed for the ignition switch damages by last Saturday's deadline and their claims will now be reviewed.