GM victims fund to have wide eligibility

Mon Jun 30, 2014 3:33pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman and Julia Edwards

(Reuters) - The compensation fund for victims of General Motors Co's (GM.N: Quote) defective ignition switch will be open to a broad range of people, with family members of those who died as a result eligible for at least $1 million, the attorney in charge of the fund said on Monday.

Kenneth Feinberg said that GM will award an additional $300,000 for a spouse and each dependent left behind by a victim who died at the hands of the faulty part. Extenuating circumstances could drive the compensation figures higher. There is no cap on what GM might pay.

Victims who have experienced catastrophic injuries as well as more minor injuries as a result of the switch malfunctioning are also eligible for payment.

The number of victims seeking damages as well as the number of fatalities caused by the faulty part will not be known until claims are processed, said Feinberg, who was hired by GM to administer the fund.

Feinberg has extensive experience, having handled compensation funds for victims of the BP oil spill and the September 11 attacks, among others.

GM is accused of ignoring for more than a decade signs of the deadly defective switch, which can be jarred out of the "run" position and deactivate power steering, power brakes and air bags. The automaker has acknowledged 54 crashes and 13 fatalities connected to the flaw, and in February began recalling 2.6 million older-model cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to fix the faulty switch.

The fund could ultimately cost GM billions of dollars, but is seen as critical to help repair the company's tarnished reputation and to move beyond the outstanding liability claims.


Rosie Cortinas (L) and Monica Coronado, who are family members of General Motors crash victims, wipe their eyes as Kenneth Feinberg, a victims compensation lawyer hired by General Motors, speaks in Washington June 30, 2014. Feinberg was speaking at a news conference to announce the eligibility criteria for a program to compensate victims of a faulty ignition switch that prompted the recall of 2.6 million vehicles. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts