General Motors has begun preliminary talks to settle more than 300 claims involving wrongful death or personal injury from accidents tied to the defective ignition switch that has led the company to recall more than 2.6 million small cars, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a company spokesman confirmed Friday.
The claims were brought by one lawyer, Robert C. Hilliard of Corpus Christi, Texas, and their number suggests a potential universe of victims far greater than the 13 deaths and 32 accidents that G.M. has linked to the defect. Mr. Hilliard's clients alone account for 53 claims of wrongful death and 273 personal injury claims involving the recalled vehicles, he said.
Mr. Hilliard met Friday morning in Washington for nearly four hours with Kenneth R. Feinberg, the lawyer G.M. hired last month to explore a compensation fund for victims of accidents tied to the faulty switch, which can shut off power while cars are in motion, disabling air bags and impeding steering and brake systems. Mr. Feinberg has overseen similar funds in numerous catastrophes, including the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Neither side would discuss the terms being discussed.
The session was the clearest indication yet that G.M. does plan to compensate accident victims and their families, even though it is moving aggressively to dismiss other types of lawsuits, including dozens of class-action cases seeking compensation for diminished value of the recalled vehicles.