Individuals and businesses on Alabama’s Gulf Coast bore the brunt of damage from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but the oil disaster also dealt a severe blow to people, companies, and even some municipalities all over the state, although the damage may not be as obvious. Now, thanks to a landmark settlement between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, anyone hurt by the oil spill is entitled to compensation through an improved claims process and fairer terms, even if they aren’t anywhere near the coast.
As part of Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the BP oil spill litigation, Beasley Allen attorney Rhon Jones helped negotiate terms of the agreement with BP ahead of a trial last February. The agreement, reached on March 1, holds the door open for claimants who may have assumed they were ineligible for compensation under the old Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), or those who already received some compensation from the GCCF as long as they didn’t sign a final release. Even those who were denied by the GCCF may be entitled to damages under the new terms.
“I think they have the mental picture that if they’re in Montgomery, unless they own a seafood restaurant or they have a specific tourism-based business, that they don’t have anything to do with this,” Rhon Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser. “That’s not really true.”
He explained that the new process uses a formula to remove the guesswork and objectively determine business losses, regardless of the claimant’s geographical location. “If you’re in Huntsville and you meet it, you meet it,” Mr. Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser.
According to the formula, businesses that experienced a 15 percent drop in business during a specific period in 2010, followed by an upswing in business of about 10 percent in 2011 may be eligible for compensation. The amount of lost profits is then determined by accounting for growth factors and making calculations based on business type and proximity to the Gulf.
No cap has been placed on the amount BP will have to pay out to damaged businesses, and claimants have until April 2014 to file a claim in the class-action settlement. Commercial fishermen are covered under a separate $2.3 billion fund that follows a different claims process and compensation structure.
Anyone suffering from medical conditions as a result of the BP oil spill are covered under another part of the agreement, which sets terms for compensating cleanup workers, coastal residents, and other who may have been exposed to oil, fumes, and the chemical dispersants.
Claimants must meet requirements based on geographic location and length of exposure, but those eligible will entitled to compensation up to about $60,000 for a range of illnesses, receive medical checkups for 21 years to monitor their illnesses, and retain their right to sue BP for other spill-related health problems that develop in the future.
Claim forms are free and available on a number of websites, so claimants may file claims directly without the help of a lawyer. Larger businesses with more complicated claims, however, are encouraged to seek the help of an attorney or CPA in filing a claim.