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Paying GM’s victims

From Wednesday’s New York Times:

Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who oversaw the Sept. 11, 2001, victims’ fund, has outlined a pretty good plan to compensate people for the deaths and injuries caused by a defective ignition switch that General Motors used in 2.6 million cars. If implemented properly, the plan could speed payments to victims and their families without forcing them to sue the company.

Under the approach, families of anyone killed because of the faulty switch – including passengers, pedestrians and people in other cars involved in an accident with the GM vehicles – would receive at least $1 million and possibly much more. The total will take into account victims’ lifetime earnings potential and whether they had a surviving spouse and dependents. There is no cap on the amount of money GM will pay under the scheme, and people will not have to relinquish their right to sue unless they accept the payments. The company has linked the defect to 13 deaths, though the claims filed with Feinberg could reveal many more.

GM could do more. The company should open the fund to people affected by other problems it has identified in more than 29 million cars recalled this year.

No amount of money is ever going to be sufficient to compensate families for deaths or serious injuries. But that should not stop GM from doing all it can to help the people who have been hurt by its mistakes.

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