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GM to offer compensation for 19 deaths related to ignition switch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors Co <GM.N> will pay compensation for 19 deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch, according to the lawyer overseeing the compensation process, more than the 13 deaths the automaker had previously admitted were caused by the now recalled part.

Outside attorney Ken Feinberg is still reviewing claims of death and injury that occurred due to the risk that an ignition switch installed in 2.6 million GM cars could slip out of the “run” position, stalling the vehicles and disabling the cars’ airbags.

Feinberg’s office has not yet released the dollar amount it plans to offer each eligible claim.

Members of Congress and safety advocates have criticized GM for acknowledging only 13 deaths that were caused by the part, with some critics citing more than 100 cases.

The automaker will not increase the number of fatalities it officially attributes to the switch based on the number of death claims Feinberg finds eligible for compensation, according to GM spokesman Dave Roman.

The victims’ fund deputy administrator, Camille Biros, said expanding the number to 19 is a result of taking more evidence into account, such as photos of a crash.

“The standard that GM used for their determination was an engineering standard,” Biros said. “We have a much more liberal standard that we are applying.”

She did not name the families of the victims who will be offered compensation and said Feinberg’s office has not yet determined the dollar amounts.

Attorney Bob Hilliard, who said he represents 11 of the approved death claims, expects his clients to receive compensation offers within 10 days.

The offers are expected to be high in order to persuade beneficiaries from filing lawsuits against GM.

In total, 125 death claims and 320 injury claims have been submitted to the fund but Feinberg’s firm has either rejected or is still reviewing 106 and 308 claims, respectively.

Biros would not say how many claims have been rejected.

Some plaintiffs’ lawyers said they are waiting to see what kinds of offers GM will present to victims and families before submitting new claims.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Lance Cooper said he has continued to hear from potential clients “wherein someone died as a result of an accident that appears to be related to the defect.”

(Reporting By Julia Edwards; Additional reporting by Jessica Dye in New York and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Karey van Hall and Susan Heavey)

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