Claims in GM ignition-switch program up slightly, another death eligible

Mon Dec 1, 2014 11:52am EST
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DETROIT Dec 1 (Reuters) - Claims related to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors Co vehicles rose slightly in the last week, including an additional death attributed to the defect, according to an official report on Monday.

GM has been criticized for waiting 11 years to begin recalling millions of cars with ignition-switch problems that have been linked to fatalities.

The switch can slip out of position, stalling the vehicle and disabling air bags. The defect led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.

As of Monday, the program had received 2,215 claims for injuries and deaths, according to the report from the lawyer overseeing the program to compensate for deaths and accidents linked to the part. That was up 1.6 percent from a week earlier. The program began accepting claims on Aug. 1.

Thirty-six deaths have now been approved as eligible for payments, up from 35 previously, according to the report from the office of lawyer Kenneth Feinberg.

GM hired Feinberg, who ran high-profile victim compensation funds for the Sept. 11 attacks and Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to handle an out-of-court compensation program to pay claims on behalf of people injured or killed because of the switch. GM has said it gave Feinberg free rein to determine who to compensate and would not challenge his decisions.

Overall, the fund has received 229 claims for deaths, 142 for catastrophic injuries and 1,844 for less-serious injuries requiring hospitalization. Of those, claims from 36 deaths, five severe injuries and 39 other injuries have been deemed eligible for the program.

The report said 216 claims were deemed ineligible, while 463 claims lacked sufficient paperwork or evidence and nearly half - 1,081 - had no documentation at all.

The original deadline for claims submissions was Dec. 31, but GM agreed to extend that to Jan. 31, 2015.

Eligible death claimants can receive more than $1 million. The amount of compensation has not been capped, and GM has set aside at least $400 million to cover its costs. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Matthew Lewis)