Using Field Agents to Quicken Claims Process


Ideas for improving the process coming out of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility continue to surface, and one of them involves a less centralized approach – in effect, allowing field agents to immediately process smaller claims, like those under $10,000. BP actually did that, but Kenneth Feinberg’s approach has been more top-down, using the field offices merely as data-collection facilities.

The Press-Register quotes resident Tom Lyles, a veteran of previous Gulf disasters (e.g., hurricanes) saying: “…they need to have, at the local claims centers, people on the ground who have checks available and enough training to know how to evaluate these claims…some of the more complex business claims need to go up the line, but some of them don’t…if you don’t have a field guy there who can evaluate claims for $10,000 or less, you don’t have the right people.”

Mr. Feinberg continues to insist that the real success of the claims-payment process is in the long-term fairness and generosity. “The real, main battle is going to be the final payment and how these people are going to be treated, how generous you’re going to be and how fair,” Mr. Feinberg said. “That is the true test of the program…. If you make mistakes at the end, there’s no Act II.”

Well, there’s not going to be an “Act II” for a lot of Gulf residents. And Mr. Feinberg’s emphasis on caution might have been applicable in the previous situations he’s worked in, when maybe insurance claims and other money was available and the financial impacts were different. But in this case, many of those seeking what BP owes them will be out of business way, way before they see any money.

And let us again remind everyone who will listen: Most of the checks being written are for pennies on the dollar of the damages people claimed. That means people had the documentation to get a payment, but that somebody – clearly not somebody at the local offices – somehow made a decision that some of the claims were valid and some were not.

K.A. Turner at the Press-Register has a good story here:

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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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