BP's spill claims handed to independent assessor

The process of adjudicating damages claims against BP for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was officially transferred to an independent organisation yesterday – but anger along the Gulf Coast and legal uncertainty surrounding the compensation awards mean that BP will not quickly know the total bill it faces.

It remains unclear whether the residents and businesses that have suffered financially from the spill will use the new claims facility in great numbers, or choose to resort to the courts in the hope of winning a better settlement from the British oil giant.

Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer appointed to apportion the $20bn (£13bn) claims fund put up by BP, was yesterday fighting to persuade people to use it. He faced criticism for insisting that compensation awards, apart from some emergency payouts in the next six months, should be viewed as full and final legal settlements, and that claimants must therefore sign away their right to sue BP.

"I'm going to have to draw some tough lines," Mr Feinberg said, "but I'm hoping that I'll be able to enjoy the benefit of saying, 'Well, if I haven't found you eligible and you opt out of this voluntary programme, no court will find you eligible'."

He said he had not yet decided if claimants should also have to agree not to sue other companies involved in the disaster.

Thirty-five offices set up in the five coastal states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida re-opened for business yesterday after BP stopped accepting claims ahead of the handover last week.

Over the next few days, Mr Feinberg and his team may begin to get a picture of just how extensive the claims on the fund are going to be, but calculating the economic cost to businesses could prove fiendishly complicated, particularly in sectors such as tourism, which has been affected by the perception that Gulf coast beaches may be contaminated. Many people in the Gulf of Mexico region privately admit that they still do not know how serious the damage from the spill will be or how long it will last.

Sid Patrick, who owns Captain Sid's fish market and restaurant on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Metairie, Louisiana, said he and his wife, Pam, were just beginning to assemble the paperwork to submit a claim to the new fund. That will mean going over their accounts for the past two years to demonstrate the significance of the fall-off in business since the oil spill. At a rough guess, he says his trade is down about 30 per cent compared with this time last year.

But, as government restrictions on fishery areas in the Gulf and the surrounding inland waters are eased, he agrees he is still uncertain how long term the damage will be.

The Gulf's crayfish fishing season opens on 1 November and Mr Patrick is counting on the harvest to plug some of the holes that the spill opened in his business. "We don't know how long this going to last," Mr Patrick said. "How many years this is going to be going on for, we still don't really know."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us