| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 26 A program to compensate victims
of crashes linked to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors
vehicles has received claims for 107 deaths as of
Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for the lawyer overseeing
Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Kenneth Feinberg, told Reuters
that the 107 deaths were among 309 claims that have been
submitted so far. The program began accepting claims on Aug. 1
and will remain open until Dec. 31.
Before a claim is deemed eligible, it will be evaluated by
Feinberg and his staff to determine whether the ignition switch
was in fact responsible for causing a serious physical injury or
death. If so, Feinberg will determine how much compensation to
The number of death claims submitted already far exceeds the
13 deaths that GM has officially attributed to the switch, which
prompted the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.
Jere Beasley, a lawyer representing multiple people who have
submitted claims, said the pace for filing claims seemed
slightly slower than initially expected, in part because lawyers
may be waiting to see how much compensation will be offered for
certain claims before bringing new ones. In addition, waiting
also allows time to gather evidence to determine whether certain
accidents could be eligible before submitting claims.
Determinations on eligibility for claims will be made within
90 to 180 days after they are submitted, Feinberg said in June
when he announced the program.
Feinberg previously said he expected the highest volume of
claims within the first few months of the program, as well as
Robert Hilliard, a lawyer representing hundreds of people
who are either suing GM in court or filing claims with the
program, said he anticipated the number of claims would grow
GM has set aside $400 million to cover compensation through
the program, although the amount of total payouts is not capped.
Under the program's protocol, eligible claims for deaths linked
to the switch will likely be awarded at least $1 million, which
could increase, depending on factors like whether the deceased
had children or other dependents.
People submitting claims will not waive their right to sue
GM unless and until they accept an offer from the program.
Feinberg will make all determinations on eligibility and
compensation, GM has said. A spokesman for GM, Jim Cain, said
the company is allowing the process to continue at arm's length.
Feinberg has overseen compensation programs for victims of
other high-profile catastrophes, including the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks and the BP oil spill in 2010.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York and Julia Edwards in
Washington, D.C.; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Dan Grebler)