By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of at least one victim killed in a General Motors Co vehicle with a faulty ignition switch will accept an offer 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 compensation program had extended offers to 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 said in an interview that one family had decided to accept the program’s offer, and the other was still weighing whether to accept. He declined to say which family had accepted and how much each had been offered.
It is the first known instance of a crash victim’s family accepting a compensation award 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.
(Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis)