The Louisiana lawyer chosen to take over the BP oil spill claims process was in Mobile last week to give Alabamians hurt by the spill an update on the new claims center’s progress.
Patrick Juneau became head of the new Deepwater Horizon Claims Center after BP and the Plaintiffs Steering Committee reached an agreement in March ahead of what promised to be a long, drawn out trial. Part of the settlement stipulated a new claims center to replace the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), along with a new administrator to replace Ken Feinberg.
“This is no Feinberg operation,” U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner said in introducing Mr. Juneau at the Wednesday press conference.
“This is an entirely new program with much broader eligibility requirements,” Mr. Juneau said. “I can tell you for a fact that there are thousands of people eligible for compensation, but they’ve got to file a claim to get it.”
Addressing claimants who believe they were pushed aside, shortchanged, and generally let down by Mr. Feinberg’s claim center, Mr. Bonner said that Mr. Juneau is working to repair the fallout.
“He understands that there was a damage; a lot of damage done. I believe he is here to help correct some of the flaws of earlier processes and try to make sure everybody that is eligible, everybody who thinks they are eligible, has another opportunity to have their voice heard,” Mr. Bonner said.
As of August 1, the DHCC has received more than 47,000 claims from throughout the Gulf Coast. Of those, 7,443 claims (16 percent) came from Alabama individuals and businesses.
In response to some of the claims, the DHCC has issued hundreds of “determination letters” to claimants offering a total of $62 million, including $18.25 million to 1,454 Alabama individuals and businesses. Determination letters are official responses the DHCC sends to claimants and a first step in the payment process.
Recipients may choose to accept the payment offered by the DHCC or negotiate for a higher amount. Mr. Juneau advised anyone harmed by the BP oil spill to file a new claim, even if they had claims rejected under Mr. Feinberg’s GCCF.