Lawyers expect hundreds of claims at start of GM ignition-switch fund

Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:52pm EDT
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By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several hundred claims are expected to be filed at the start of a GM-financed program being launched Friday to compensate victims of a faulty ignition switch on some of its vehicles, lawyers say.

General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) in April hired Washington, DC, lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to run the compensation program, giving him sole discretion on how much to offer for serious injuries and deaths caused by the faulty switch. GM has set aside $400 million to cover claims, although the total amount of awards is not capped and could increase.

GM has linked 54 accidents and 13 deaths to the faulty switch, which prompted the recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

Feinberg, who has run other high-profile compensation funds, told Reuters he was prepared to field a wave of claims for compensation over the next five months. Claims can be submitted until Dec. 31.

"If the 9/11 fund and BP oil spill fund are any indication, we will likely get a flood of claims in the first three months and the last month of the program," he said.

At least five plaintiffs' lawyers told Reuters there may be hundreds of claims filed in the first few days, and a similar number or more in the months to come.

While initially skeptical about the scope and restrictions on the program, many plaintiffs' lawyers said they were willing to give it a chance, particularly since it does not stop them from suing GM while waiting to see how much money Feinberg offers.

Indeed, some lawyers said that safeguard had encouraged them to file claims even as they pursued lawsuits, because they could always resume litigation later if they were unhappy with an award.   Continued...

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009.  REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky