June 30 The compensation fund for victims of
General Motors Co's defective ignition switch will be
open to a broad range of people and should finish its work by
the end of the second quarter of next year, the attorney in
charge of the fund said.
Kenneth Feinberg, in an interview ahead of Monday's
announcement on how the fund will operate, said he had no idea
how many people would file claims or whether the number of
deaths linked to the faulty switch would rise from the 13 GM has
Claims on the fund can be filed for five months starting
Aug. 1, he said.
In February, GM began recalling 2.6 million older-model
cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, linked to the
defective switch, which can be jarred out of the run position
and deactivate power steering, power brakes and air bags.
Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra previously said the fund
was intended to compensate "every single person who suffered
serious physical injury or lost a loved one" as a result of the
bad switch. She also has said Feinberg, the architect of
compensation funds for victims of high-profile catastrophes
including the Sept. 11 attacks, would determine who was paid and
how much, and there would be no cap on the payout.
Details of the compensation program began to emerge during
congressional testimony by Barra on June 18 and in subsequent
interviews with plaintiffs' lawyers.
However, Feinberg declined to speculate how many claims
would be filed or how many deaths may end up being linked to the
faulty switch, something GM said he would ultimately determine.
"I don't know about 13 or 50 or whatever," he said. "I will
not speculate until people file a claim."
During the hearing, U.S. Representative Diana DeGette of
Colorado suggested there could be as many as 100 deaths linked
to the faulty switch.
Feinberg also declined to estimate how big the ultimate
payout could be. Safety advocates have called on GM to create a
fund of more than $1 billion.
Feinberg identified several factors that would not prevent
someone from filing a claim, including driver negligence. Other
factors that would not prevent the filing of a claim also
include whether an accident occurred before GM's 2009 bankruptcy
filing and whether people had previously settled claims with the
No. 1 U.S. automaker.
However, if someone accepts compensation, they would waive
the right to sue GM.
While Feinberg expects to wrap up the fund by the end of
June, it would remain open as long as needed to process claims.
The filing period, which ends Dec. 31, provides "ample time
to come up with the documentation to corroborate their claim,"
Feinberg said. However, it is shorter than the time GM is taking
to repair all the affected cars as the Detroit company has said
it expects to have most of the cars fixed around October.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Bernard Orr)