GM Offers Millions to Victims of Crashes Caused by Defects

A General Motors compensation expert says the automaker will offer millions of dollars in compensation to victims of accidents caused by defective ignition switches.

Kenneth Feinberg said compensation will be paid to people who were driving cars of a specific make, model and year known to have problems with ignition switches. When these parts failed, it shut off the power steering and airbags.

"They [GM] are funding it [the compensation program] without any cap on the aggregate [total] amount of money that's going to be available," he said. "GM basically has said whatever it costs to pay all eligible claims, under the protocol [rules of the program] they will pay it. There is no ceiling on the aggregate dollars."

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent claims administrator for the GM Ignition Compensation Program (right) meets with family members of crash victims in Washington on June 20, 2014. /AP Kenneth Feinberg, the independent claims administrator for the GM Ignition Compensation Program (right) meets with family members of crash victims in Washington on June 20, 2014. /AP

Feinberg said the level of compensation will depend on the severity of the injury, and the age and earning potential of the victim. He also said the program will not consider whether the driver's conduct, such as drinking, speeding, or texting, contributed to the crash.

He earlier ran compensation programs for victims of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and other disasters.

The program is also open to people who have already sued GM and promised not to pursue further compensation. They can reopen their cases to gain additional money.

General Motors has been criticized for waiting a decade before disclosing the defect that is blamed for at least 13 deaths and many more injuries. The company faces a series of investigations by Congress, state and federal officials into the defects in Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars.

The total cost of the program is not yet clear, but experts predict it could run into the billions of dollars.

VOA News / Jul. 01, 2014 08:09 KST