BP’s paid less than half of claims


Since the Deepwater Horizon well exploded April 20, BP has paid fewer than half of the claims filed in six states, including Mississippi.

The oil giant had received 103,013 claims as of Saturday and had paid 48,795 of them at a cost of nearly $163 million. Mississippi residents and businesses filed 11,535 claims, and 5,088 had been paid. In this state BP has paid out nearly $16 million.

The company says its intent is to pay all legitimate claims. However, BP officials said there are delays if the company has to wait for documentation from people and businesses filing claims. Once it has the right paperwork, it takes between five and eight days to get a check.

“We’re trying absolutely to make it quick and easy for everyone to get their claims filed and paid,” BP spokesman Max McGhan said. “Obviously, that does depend on us being provided all the documentation we need and the contact information we need to file that claim.”

BP set up an emergency compensation fund, as well as a $20 billion fund to pay people who have lost wages directly or indirectly because of the spill. Some of the obvious claimants are fishermen and shrimpers who can’t make a living because the oily waters are closed. Hotels, restaurants and casinos have been hit indirectly as fewer tourists means fewer customers.

People and businesses can file claims by visiting one of the 35 offices throughout the Gulf Coast or by registering on the phone or online.

Often, though, people begin the process but have to call back with the right paperwork, BP spokeswoman Lisa Houghton said. She said the company understands many of the fishermen get paid in cash, but a letter from the seafood processor may help to get their claims paid.

For others, a W-2 form or pay stub could show how much money they are losing.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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