• News
  • Celebrities
  • Finance
  • Crypto
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Others

For Oil Spill Victims, Fair Compensation Requires a Crystal Ball

Feinberg.jpg
Feinberg.jpg

Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP Oil Spill Victim Compensation Fund, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. (Pete Marovich/ZUMApress.com)

George Barisich — a third-generation shrimper in Saint Bernard Parish, La., whose livelihood has come to a screeching halt as a result of the Gulf oil spill — hasn’t got the slightest idea when he’ll be able to get back to work.

“God hasn’t shared that with me yet,” he said.

[Environment1] For Barisich and thousands of other victims of the spill, the inability to work has brought about substantial financial hardship. Now, with BP nearing the final stages of its three-month effort to stop thousands of gallons of oil from leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, the big question they’re all asking is how they’ll be compensated by BP for the economic damage they’ve suffered.

But as officials unveil details of the claims process, spill victims face a conundrum: Many of them will be required to predict the long-term damages they will face as a result of the oil spill years before the true damages are known.

Kenneth Feinberg is the man in charge of what is likely to be one of the largest claims processes in U.S. history. Feinberg was appointed by the White House last month to oversee a $20 billion escrow account being put aside by BP to pay claims from the spill.

He has been trekking across the Gulf Coast region over the last several weeks in an attempt to gain the trust of oil spill victims. For the most part, people seem to like him. They appreciate his candor. “This program I am running is absolutely voluntary — nobody has to do it,” Feinberg told Louisiana residents last week, according to The New York Times. “It’s my opinion you are crazy if you don’t participate.”

But first impressions don’t mean much in the Gulf, which has faced more than its share of tragedies and government recovery efforts. Observers say they are waiting to see just how Feinberg restructures the claims process.

While Feinberg has not outlined his plan in great detail, a major battle over the claims process is looming. BP has been offering interim payments to oil spill victims to hold them over until the leak can be capped. While there have been complaints about this process (including frustration over the disbursement of second payments), the White House says BP has not denied any claims. As of Tuesday, “119,012 claims have been opened, from which more than $220 million have been disbursed,” the White House says.

But these are just interim payments. Feinberg has outlined a process whereby, beginning three months after the well has been permanently capped, victims will need to file claims for the total damages they expect from the oil spill. They will then be offered a single payment. If they accept the payment, they must sign a waiver saying they cannot sue BP for more money. If they aren’t happy with the payment, they can sue BP, entering a legal process that could take years to resolve.

Observers and lawyers in the region say this scenario raises several questions, the main one being: How can you calculate the economic damages you’ll suffer before you know what the true consequences of the oil spill will be years and even decades down the road?

Barisich, who is the president of the United Commercial Fisherman’s Association, put it this way: “It’s a crap shoot. It really is. … Fishing may come back within two years and then you win. But if it doesn’t come back, if it takes four, five, six, or 20 years, then you lose.”

Barisich said there are no accurate estimates for when the fishing industry will fully recover. “Nobody can give you that answer,” he said. “If somebody tells you, it would be a best guess. [The spill is] so vast, it’s so huge, it’s so spread out. They tell you it’s going to come back in two years. Would you put your salary up on that estimate? Because you’re sure as hell putting my salary up on it.”

Richard Shore, a partner at the law firm Gilbert LLP, which has worked on litigation resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, echoed Barisich’s concerns. During the next six months to a year, as Gulf Coast residents become more desperate for a settlement, they are more likely to accept what BP has to offer, even before the full consequences of the spill are adequately understood, Shore said.

“People with claims against BP will need income, but they won’t know the full extent of their damages,” Shore said. “People shouldn’t be forced to choose between going for long periods without compensation and guessing prematurely what their full damages might be. In the longer term, what Mr. Feinberg is saying is that people will have to make an educated guess about what their full damage is.”

While any victim can choose to sue BP for more money, Shore warns that this process can be expensive and time consuming. “The litigation route has its downsides and may create pressure on people to accept an offer of compensation from BP,” he said. “That will result in a lot of scrutiny on the Feinberg process.”

Ed Sherman, a law professor at Tulane University, said the process Feinberg is implementing is very similar to the one he employed as the head of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. But Sherman noted that the wide-ranging nature of the spill makes it different from the 9/11 attacks. The spill is “unlike 9/11, where a loved one was killed or there were injuries and you have a fixed condition on which to base a claim,” he said.

Still, Sherman said that outside of the BP claims process, courts are tasked with making these kinds of determinations all the time — for example, when determining compensation for long-term disability. Sherman said Feinberg will likely review the data in detail to form as accurate an estimate for long-term damages as possible to use as a basis for assessing the claims.

Feinberg did not respond to requests for comment, but a source in his law office confirmed his plan for long-term compensation for spill victims.

Regardless of the outcome of the claims process, it could be some time until Barisich and others are able to get back to work.

“We don’t know if the Gulf is going to be screwed up for years,” Barisich said. “It’s our mother basically. It gives us our product.”

Discussion & Comments (0)

    Recent Articles

    • Things You Should Know about North America

      Things You Should Know about North America

      Get to know more about North America.

    • Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Paula Seling's experience on the Eurovision stage led her to declare that "Eurovision is an unpredictable contest". Which may explain the success of the young Lena from Germany, about whom the predictions before the event did not offer much chances for victory.

    • VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      Have you ever contemplated creating a user-friendly site dedicated to sports-related free live streaming channels?

    • Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia users are able to watch thousands of videos and other contents online. XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia New is a piece of software that enables people to watch videos online without having to pay for memberships. On a graphics card, the XNXubd also provides some of the best gaming and virtual reality experiences.

    • Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      A new edition of the Video Editor Apk for xVideostudio.Video Studio has all the latest features, including support for multiple video download formats in HD, FHD, and even 4K resolutions.

    • 9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      Masturbation is a common activity for men and women. It's a natural and risk-free way to explore your body, experience pleasure, and release sexual tension.

    • Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Without having to sign up or pay anything, you can watch movies online for free with SFlix. It has more than 10,000 movies and television shows.

    • Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Collins (born May 11, 1997) is a rapper from the United States. Leray started publishing songs to SoundCloud in 2014, and in 2018 she released her breakthrough track "Huddy" as well as her first mixtape, Everythingcoz.

    • Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Are you in a bind and looking for a place to obtain free mp3 songs? Never again will you need to bother, since this article has everything necessary to obtain your solution. Download free music from MyfreeMP3.com, one of the world's most popular websites.