By Julia Edwards
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A program that compensates victims of accidents caused by a faulty ignition switch in General Motors (GM.N) vehicles has approved one new death claim, bringing to 30 the total number of fatalities linked to the issue so far, according to a report on Monday.
Since it began accepting claims on Aug. 1, the program has received 1,580 claims for deaths and injuries, said the report from the office of attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was tapped by GM to run the program. The report listed all of the claims received and approved as of Friday.
GM has been criticized for waiting 11 years to begin recalling millions of cars with ignition-switch problems that have been linked to fatalities.
The switch can slip out of position, stalling the vehicle and disabling air bags. The defect led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.
So far, 61 claims have been deemed eligible for compensation, including 30 deaths and 31 injuries, the report showed.
Overall, the receipt of claims for injuries and deaths in the latest week has slowed, with the number up almost 4 percent from 1,517 the previous week. That compares with an 11 percent jump the week before, the report showed.
Feinberg, who ran compensation programs for victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and other catastrophes, has said it is typical to see the number of claims dip in the middle of a program's cycle.
The program will continue to receive applications until Dec. 31 on behalf of individuals injured or killed in accidents they say were caused by the switch problem.
GM has given Feinberg free rein to determine eligibility criteria and to approve or reject claims. The amount of compensation has not been capped, and GM has set aside at least $400 million to cover the costs.
The total number of death claims received by the automaker is now 192.
Under the program's protocol, eligible death claims can expect a payout of at least $1 million, depending on whether the deceased had any dependents or whether any other "extraordinary circumstances" apply.
Claims for less serious injuries, those that required hospitalization but did not cause serious permanent damage, continued to make up the bulk of the claims. These were up in the latest week to 1,286 from 1,240.
Once claims are approved, Feinberg’s office makes cash offers to the eligible claimants, who can either accept them or pursue a legal case.
A spokeswoman for the program said 23 of 31 offers made have been accepted and no one has rejected an offer so far.
(Editing by Peter Galloway and Bernadette Baum)