GM compensation fund could pay millions to victims, families

Detroit Free PressJune 30, 2014 

Families of those killed in crashes involving General Motors Co.'s defective ignition switches will be offered at least $1 million if they can prove the defect caused the crash.

GM victim compensation director Kenneth Feinberg, who also led the compensation funds for the 9/11 attacks and the BP oil spill, said Monday that people who suffered injuries or families of victims who died because of the defect qualify for settlements and can begin filing claims Aug. 1.

Feinberg said current and former owners of 2.6 million small cars potentially affected by the defect will be notified that they may be eligible for settlements.

GM has identified at least 13 deaths and several dozen injuries connected to the problem, although those figures are expected to rise. Feinberg declined to speculate on how many people might be eligible or how much GM might pay out.

The compensation fund is unlimited, he said. If Feinberg determines the defect was the "substantial cause" of the accident, he will use actuarial tables and average medical cost data to calculate the size of a payout. The families of people who died will get at least $1 million.

He gave a few examples. The survivors of a 25-year-old deceased driver who was married with three children and earning $46,000 would receive about $4 million.

A 10-year-old passenger who became a paraplegic in an accident would be offered $7.8 million.

Compensation for people who needed outpatient treatment within 48 hours of the crash would be capped at $20,000.

"Money is a pretty poor substitute for loss," Feinberg said. "It's the best we can do."

Victims must submit evidence substantiating their claim -- such as police reports, hospital records, vehicle data, insurance information and even the car involved in the accident, if it's still around.

GM can provide evidence to dispute victims' claims. But the company has agreed not to challenge the claims after Feinberg makes a determination.

A GM spokesman declined to say whether the company plans to submit evidence to fight any claims.

The automaker has already collected information from about 3,500 people claiming to be victims, but Feinberg said some of those won't qualify because the people don't own GM vehicles.

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