BP Oil Spill Claims Administrator Promises Faster, Easier Process

An administrator tapped by the White House will take charge of the $20 <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/gulf_oil_spill">BP oil spill compensation fund in two weeks. According to the Palm Beach Post, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility will be up-and-running on Aug. 23, and administrator Ken Feinberg said he will start issuing checks within 24 hours.

BP has taken a drubbing the past couple of months for a claims process many say is too slow. Earlier this week, BP said it has received 145,000 claims from Gulf Coast residents and business owners citing lost income because of the massive spill. The company also boasted that it had paid out $324 million without denying a claim. However, a report published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram pointed out that 39,000 claims remain in limbo, and other claims have only been partially paid.

During a public meeting yesterday at the University of West Florida, Feinberg promised that claimants who have been waiting the longest will be paid first once he takes over the process, the Palm Beach Post said. Unlike BP’s process, claimants will not have to deal with multiple adjusters once he takes over, Feinberg said. Instead, Feinberg’s protocol will call for a single adjuster and an electronic system in which claimants can track the progress of their claim at all times.

Anyone who has already filed a claim with BP will have to re-file with the Gulf Coast Claims facility, the Palm Beach Post said. They will be able to do this on line or at one of 35 claims centers set up along the Gulf Coast. They won’t need to submit new supporting documentation, however.

Feinberg also said he will make six-month lump sum emergency payments to businesses, rather than the month-to-month payments BP has been making.

According to the Web site NewsHerald.com, Feinberg promised an easier process. He also said he would “be more generous and will declare more people eligible” than BP’s process. Feinberg said BP’s current claims criteria would be scrapped because it would result in too many unpaid claims.

The new criteria will make money available to people and businesses ineligible for compensation thus far, NewsHerald.com said. This includes real estate agents, nonprofits and business owners who argued they lost money not because of oil, but because of the perception of oil. In short, Feinberg said that the presence of oil on a beach would not be required to file a claim. Eligibility will be determined by proximity to a beach, what industry a claimant is in and how dependant a claimant was on natural resources impacted by the spill.

According to NewsHerald.com, Feinberg said he will require minimal document for the six-month emergency payment. Later lump sum settlements for long-term damages will require income statements from the last two or three year. New businesses can be reimbursed for costs associated with opening and for losses in anticipated income, as long as claimants have something to back up their estimates, NewsHerald.com said.

Accepting the six-month emergency payment won’t require claimants to give up any legal rights. However, accepting a settlement for long-term losses will require claimants to waive their right to file a lawsuit, Feinberg said.

According to the Palm Beach Post, some claims that won’t be eligible for compensation include those for a or lowered credit rating filed by businesses that are having difficulty getting loans because of the spill. Claimants also won’t be reimbursed for accountants or lawyers they paid to get their financial documents in order for their claims.

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