Few taking final offers to settle oil spill claims


NEW ORLEANS – Records show that in the last two weeks more than 8,100 people and businesses have been offered final payments from BP’s oil spill compensation fund, but few have accepted so far.

Gulf Coast Claims Facility data show that only about 2.5 percent have accepted. Claimants have 90 days to accept or reject a final offer from the $20 billion fund.

The data also show that the 204 claimants who have accepted final payment offers for all past, current and future damage from last year’s disaster got an average of $12,188.

Claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg on Feb. 18 posted his rules for full-review final payments. He has been criticized for red tape, delays and requiring that recipients of final payments give up their right to sue BP and other parties.

A federal judge has not yet ruled on requests to order changes to the release form.

Since August, roughly $3.5 billion has been paid out to nearly 170,000 claimants. Most of that was paid out in emergency payments that were meant to compensate victims for six months of lost revenue until a final settlement is offered, and quick payments of $5,000 or $25,000. The quick payments are a form of final payment that don’t require a full review, but those who accept must sign a release form.

There have been widespread complaints about the speed, fairness and amount of payouts from the fund. Feinberg has defended the program, and a spokeswoman notes that the U.S. Coast Guard has looked at 370 appeals so far and sided with the GCCF in every instance.

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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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