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GM offers victims more than $1 million

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)- General Motors offered at least $1 million Monday to the families of those who died as a result of a defect in GM cars.

The automaker will give another $300,000 for each surviving spouse and dependent, in addition to a sum of money that will be determined by the victims' earning potential.

The automaker also said that it will not cap the total amount of money it will pay to the compensation fund.

At least 13 people died, and many more were injured as result of a faulty ignition switch installed in 2.6 million GM cars.

The automaker is also offering money to those injured in crashes that were caused by the defect in the cars.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who devised compensation plans for victims after 9/11 and the BP oil spill, issued the details at a press conference Monday, about four months after GM recalled the affected vehicles. He was hired by GM (GM) in April as a consultant.

The 13 people that GM says were killed as a result of the ignition switch flaw died when the front airbags failed to deploy.

But Feinberg said for the first time today that any passengers killed or hurt are also eligible for compensation.

Additionally, the passengers and drivers in any other cars involved in a crash are all eligible, as are any pedestrians involved.

Victims may file a claim even if their own negligence, such as speeding or driving drunk, contributed to the crash.

GM employees first knew that the ignition switches were malfunctioning back in 2004. But the automaker didn't issue a recall until a decade later. Some deaths and injuries could have been avoided had the recall been issued sooner.

Payouts to those who suffered serious, life-altering injuries will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Those with less serious injuries will be paid depending on the number of nights they spent at the hospital. Someone who spent one night in the hospital will receive $20,000, while someone hospitalized 32 nights or more will be paid $500,000.

The compensation plan does with a caveat: Any victim who accepts the money waives their right to sue GM. The program is voluntary, and victims can bypass the whole program and take GM straight to court instead.

But taking the automaker to court could be an uphill battle since a bankruptcy court gave the company a liability shield for incidents that happened prior to its filing in 2009.

Anyone who lost a loved one or was seriously injured in a crash related to the recall can file a claim with GM between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014.

Feinberg also said he will hold a private meeting with any claimant that wishes to do so.

 

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