October 27, 2014 / 3:13 PM / in 3 years

Deaths linked to GM's ignition switch rise to 30

WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - A program to compensate victims of mishaps caused by a faulty ignition switch in General Motors' vehicles has approved one new death claim, bringing the total number of deaths linked to the switch so far to 30, according to a report released on Monday by the lawyer overseeing the program.

Since it began accepting claims on Aug. 1, the program has received a total of 1,580 claims for deaths and injuries, according to the report by the office of Kenneth Feinberg, who GM tapped to run the program. The report listed all of the claims received and approved as of Friday.

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

The switch in question 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.

So far, 61 claims have been deemed eligible for compensation, including the 30 deaths and 31 injuries, the report showed.

Overall, the receipt of claims for injuries and deaths in the latest week has slowed, with number up almost 4 percent from 1,517 the previous week. That compares with an 11 percent jump the week before, the report showed.

Feinberg, who ran compensation programs for victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and other catastrophes, has said it is typical to see the number of claims dip in the middle of a program's cycle.

The program will continue to receive applications until Dec. 31 on behalf of individuals injured or killed in accidents they say were caused by the switch problem.

GM has given Feinberg free rein to determine eligibility criteria and to approve or reject claims. The amount of compensation has not been capped, and GM has set aside at least $400 million to cover the costs.

The total number of death claims received by the automaker is now 192.

Under the program's protocol, eligible death claims can expect a payout of at least $1 million, depending on whether the deceased had any dependents or whether any other "extraordinary circumstances" apply.

Claims for less serious injuries, those that required hospitalization but did not cause serious permanent damage, continue to makeup the bulk of the claims, up in the latest week to 1,286 from 1,240.

Once claims are approved, Feinberg's office makes cash offers to the eligible claimants, who can either accept them or pursue a legal case. As of Oct. 20, the program had made 31 offers and 20 of them had been accepted. (Reporting By Julia Edwards; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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