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General Motors compensation expert gets claims in 63 death cases, 125 claims overall

DETROIT - Sixty-three death claims have been filed so far with the lawyer handling payments for those involved in wrecks caused by faulty General Motors ignition switches.

A spokeswoman for compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg says he received 125 claims by Friday afternoon. Sixty-two others seek payments for injuries. Feinberg started taking claims Aug. 1.

Spokeswoman Camille Biros says Feinberg still has to determine if the claims are eligible for payments.

"The number of claims filed does not equate in any way to the number that will ultimately be deemed eligible," she said in an email message. "With all of these compensation programs, you will receive many claims that cannot even get beyond the first test of eligibility."

Feinberg, who handled compensation for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the BP Gulf oil spill, is accepting claims through Dec. 31.

GM has recalled 2.6 million small cars to replace the switches. The company has admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet it failed to recall the cars until this year. GM hired Feinberg to compensate the injured and the families of people killed.

Drivers, passengers and pedestrians killed or hurt by one of the defective GM small cars are eligible. The company has absorbed a $400 million charge to cover possible claims, but the bills could run higher because the fund has no cap. The Detroit-based company advised investors last month that it might have to set aside another $200 million to compensate victims.

GM has traced 13 deaths to the defective switches, but some members of Congress investigating the problems peg the death toll at nearly 100 people.

The defective vehicles covered by the fund cover a range of GM vehicles, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. The ignition switches in those cars could suddenly slip from "run" to "accessory," causing engines to stall. That causes the power steering to shut off, making cars harder to control and disabling air bags in crashes.

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