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5:51 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Compensation for ignition-switch crashes announced

GM has recalled 2.6 million Cobalts, HHRs and other small cars for a defective ignition switch
Credit NHTSA

GM will pay a minimum of $1 million to victims of serious or fatal crashes involving cars with a faulty ignition switch. 

GM admits it delayed a recall of small cars with a defective switch for 11 years. 

GM says 13 people died and 54 were injured when the ignition switch turned off, disabling the power steering, power brakes, seat belt pretensioners and air bags. 

But attorneys for victims' families say there are many more such cases. 

The program is run by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw similar programs for victims of the BP oil spill and 9/11.  He says it won't be easy to determine who's eligible.

"So many of these accidents occurred long ago," Feinberg says. "The car is gone, and we've gotta come up with circumstantial evidence."

But Feinberg says he will work with families who wish to file claims, or their attorneys, to guide them through what kinds of evidence would substantiate a claim – such as police reports, medical reports, black box data, and witness statements.

The program will also pay for victims' lost earnings and long-term care.

Feinberg says GM did not agree with all the details of the plan he developed, but agreed to abide by it.

From here on, GM's main role will be to cut checks. His firm will be the sole arbiter of which claims are valid.

"GM may not challenge it in court, GM may not reject it, GM may say they think we made a mistake – that's fine. But they have to honor it and they have to pay the claim," says Feinberg.

Feinberg will begin taking claims on Aug. 1. The deadline to file a claim is Dec. 31.