GM ignition-switch victims' families to accept compensation offer: lawyer
Ken Rimer (L). stepfather of deceased Natasha Weigel, and Laura Christian, birth mother of deceased Amber Marie Rose, carry signs in remembrance of their children and others who died in car crashes from defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles in front of the GM World Headquarters in downtown Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2014. Weigel's family has accepted a compensation offer from GM, a lawyer for the family said.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The families of two victims killed in a General Motors Co vehicle with a faulty ignition switch will accept offers from a program set up to provide compensation for crash injuries and deaths, a lawyer for the family said on Thursday.
The lawyer, Robert Hilliard, said the offers had been accepted by the families of Amy Rademaker and Natasha Weigel, two teenage girls who were killed in a 2006 crash involving a 2005 Chevy Cobalt, one of 2.6 million vehicles recalled by GM since the beginning of the year for switch problems.
Hilliard declined to say how much the awards were.
It is the first known instance of crash victims' families accepting compensation awards from the program, just days after the first offers were made.
The compensation is being offered by GM through a program run by outside lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who has administered programs for victims of the 9/11 attacks and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, among others.
As of Wednesday, the total number of injury and death claims filed with the GM compensation program had reached 850, including 150
death claims, according to an official from Feinberg’s office. Of the death claims, 21 had been deemed eligible as of last Friday.
So far, 15 cash offers have been made verbally to eligible claimants, according to Camille Biros, a deputy administrator of the fund. Hilliard said 12 of his clients had received offers. Each eligible death claim will be awarded at least $1 million, which could increase based on factors including whether the deceased had any dependents and any other “extraordinary circumstances” of the accident.
While declining to provide details on specific offers, Hilliard said that so far the amounts offered to his clients were generally fair, given the specific facts of each case.
“Of the offers made so far, most of my clients feel that they are reasonable and in the ballpark of serious consideration,” he said.
Under the program’s protocol, any person who accepts a compensation offer must waive the right to sue GM over the crash. The families of Amy Rademaker and Natasha Weigel had sued GM in Minnesota state court in March, accusing GM of knowing about the defect for more than a decade but failing to fix the vehicles.
GM has set aside $400 million to cover the costs of the compensation program. The program will accept claims until Dec. 31.
A spokesman for GM, Dave Roman, said the company would not comment on individual claims but accepted Feinberg's determinations. "Our goal has been to reach every eligible person impacted," he said in a statement.
(Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler)