By Keith Laing - 06/30/14 11:21 AM EDT
General Motors will begin making payments to victims of car crashes linked to its widespread recall of defective ignition switches on Aug. 1, attorney Ken Feinberg announced Monday.
Feinberg said crash victims or their relatives would have until Dec. 31 to file claims and they would not face any limits on the amount of potential compensation they could receive.
"GM basically has said whatever it costs to pay all eligible claims under the protocol, they will pay it," Feinberg said. "There is no ceiling on the aggregate dollars."
The cars, which were linked to accidents that caused 13 deaths, were found to abruptly shut off or have their airbags be disabled if drivers used heavy key chains.
The first accident related to the faulty ignition switches was reported in 2005. Lawmakers accused GM of purposely delaying a recall until earlier this year to avoid paying for repairs.
The company promised restitution to the car crash victims and hired Feinberg, who has overseen payments to families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 2007 Virginia Tech University mass shooting and the 2010 BP oil spill.
“We are pleased that Mr. Feinberg has completed the next step with our ignition switch compensation program to help victims and their families,” GM chief Mary Barra said in a statement. “We are taking responsibility for what has happened by treating them with compassion, decency and fairness. To that end, we are looking forward to Mr. Feinberg handling claims in a fair and expeditious manner.”
Feinberg said Monday the company would place no limits on the payouts based on driver behavior in the accidents.
"This program is about General Motors and ignition switches," Feinberg said. "We have no interest in evaluating any alleged contributory negligence on the part of the driver. It is totally irrelevant. We have no interest. This program is aimed at compensation for defective switches, not anything about the driver."
Feinberg added that car crash victims who negotiated previous settlements with GM would not be barred for seeking compensation under the company's new program.
"GM has said, under this program, anybody who already settled their claim with General Motors before they knew about this cover-up of this ignition switch problem may rip up the release they signed and come back into this program to get additional compensation," Feinberg said.
"I've read that there are some individuals who already settled and gave up their right to sue in return for compensation," he continued. "They may now ignore that release and come into this program and receive additional compensation."
Updated at 11:50 a.m.