Lawsuits over General Motors ignition defects scheduled for January 2016
General Motors headquarters are pictured on Jan. 14, 2014 in Detroit [AFP]

A U.S. judge has set an early 2016 trial date for suits against General Motors over the ignition switch defect linked to at least 30 deaths.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who has received more than 100 complaints from GM owners, has announced a trial date of January 11, 2016, a judicial source said Thursday.

Those eligible to sue include GM customers whose accidents came after the U.S. auto giant emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Some of the claims come from family members who lost relatives in accidents allegedly caused by the defect.

GM has been under fire over the defect in many models sold from 1998-2011 in which the faulty ignition system could turn off power to a car's power steering and safety airbags while it is in motion.

GM waited nearly 11 years before beginning to recall 2.6 million cars, in February, after hundreds of possible accidents and deaths were reported.

GM has hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to set up an independent compensation fund for victims. So far, the fund has accepted claims related to 30 fatalities and 31 non-fatal accidents due to the problem.

Those who accept compensation under the Feinberg-led process give up the right to sue GM otherwise.

Plaintiffs attorneys are also fighting GM to win a hearing for accidents sustained prior to the 2009 bankruptcy.