Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Settlement?
The Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Settlement is a class action settlement which was reached with BP on behalf of eligible class members in April of 2012. The settlement is actually two settlements. One settlement covers medical claims, such as cleanup workers who experienced health problems after responding to the oil spill cleanup efforts. The other settlement covers claims for economic losses for individuals and businesses that suffered losses as a result of the oil spill. The federal court overseeing the settlement gave final approval for the economic settlement on December 21, 2012. The final approval can be viewed here. The Court gave its final approval for the medical settlement on January 11, 2013. The final approval of the medical settlement can be viewed here.
2. Are you Eligible?
Eligibility in the settlement depends on whether you are in an economic zone included in the settlement for economic settlement claims. The economic claim settlement includes four zones called Zones A, B, C, and D which cover Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and parts of Texas and Florida. You may view the maps here to determine if you are in one of the economic zones. If you are an individual or business in one of these zones who suffered economic losses in any 3 month period in 2010 when compared to those same months n 2007, 2008, 2009 (or an average of any combination), you should contact a BP claim lawyer to have your claim evaluated for compensation. There are many exclusions and qualifications for eligibility which require the expertise of a BP claim lawyer.
For medical settlement eligibility, you must be able to prove that either you are a cleanup worker during a certain period or that you reside in a certain zone determined in the settlement, in addition to having certain medical conditions. The medical conditions range from headaches to chronic rhinitis. Cleanup workers can prove eligibility by being in what’s called the “medical encounter database” or by proving employment in the clean up by other evidence (i.e., paystubs, W-2s, etc.). If you received an orange and white envelope in the mail from the BP claims administrator since April of 2012, you are likely included in the medical encounters database. The medical conditions are included in a complex matrix which you can view here.
The medical settlement includes compensation for those that experienced medical problems as follows:
Zone A Residents living within 1/2 mile of specified beachfront areas in AL, LA, MS or the FL panhandle for some time on each of at least 60 days between April 20, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2010.
Zone B Residents living within one mile of specified wetlands in the areas of AL, LA, MS or the FL panhandle for some time on each of at least 60 days between April 20, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2010.
Cleanup workers who participated in land and water cleanup efforts between April 20, 2010, and April 16, 2012.
3. How do we determine which geographic zone we are in?
The settlement agreement divides the Gulf Coast region into four geographic zones (A-D). In order to determine your geographic zone, click here.
4. Is Every Type of Industry Covered by the Settlement?
A majority of business and their employees are eligible for compensation under the Deepwater Horizon Economic Settlement. However, there are some business losses which BP has not agreed to pay under the settlement agreement. Some of the businesses and their employees which are excluded from the Deepwater Horizon Economic Settlement are as follows:
Banks and other financial institutions
Casinos and other businesses in the gambling industry
Oil and gas industry
Real estate developers
Entities selling or marketing BP brand fuel
Unfortunately, although claims for the commercial fishing industry are compensable under the settlement, the deadline to file seafood compensation claims was on January 22, 2013. These claims had an earlier deadline because the settlement allows for the redistribution of money earmarked for the commercial fishing industry if the funds are not all paid out initially.
5. What if our company is located inland?
In order to be eligible for compensation under the Deepwater Horizon settlement agreement, the business must have a physical location in one of the geographically divided settlement zones. The zones include the entire states Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Florida and Texas. To see if your business or employer is located in a zone eligible for compensation, view the map here.
6. How Do We Prove that the Oil Spill Negatively Impacted our Financial Performance?
Proving that your business suffered a loss because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill requires a comparison of monthly revenues over a limited span of time. For example, showing a dip in revenue for September-November in 2010 versus the same months in 2009 may satisfy the settlement’s “causation” standard to determine eligibility depending on what zone your business is located.
These revenues must be evidenced by certain financial records in order to prove the loss. These records will be used to show the Deepwater Horizon Claims Payment Center how your business fits into the loss calculations agreed upon in the settlement. Most businesses will need to provide yearly or monthly profit and loss statements, as well as tax returns. Individuals will need to provide W-2s, 1099s, and/or tax returns. The causation requirements for each specific economic claim depend on which geographic zone you are located in. The Deepwater Horizon Economic Settlement is divided into four geographic zones (A-D). According to the settlement agreement, Zone A has the least stringent requirements on showing financial losses, and the level of requirements increases ad you move away from the coast to Zone D. This means that Zone D businesses will have more stringent causation requirements in terms of substantiating losses with financial records.
7. Can I make a claim?
In order to bring a Deepwater Horizon economic class action claim, you must have generated earnings as a business or employee. For purposes of the settlement, unemployment, disability, or any other governmental assistance program finances are not considered earnings. In order for our attorneys to qualify a claim as a business, the business must have shown expenses on a tax return. Many non-profit companies are also eligible for compensation.
The settlement does not compensate individuals who just simply own property in an economic loss zone. However, it does compensate individuals who owned or leased property during 2010 in a wetland or coastal real property zone. To determine if you have a wetland or coastal property zone, contact our BP claim attorneys.
8. Is it true that your initial claim evaluation is free?
Yes, we will evaluate your BP oil spill claim for free and let you know if we can help you or not. There is no charge for the initial evaluation and also no requirement that you engage our services after the evaluation. Simply contact our office to setup an initial claim evaluation.
9. How long does the entire process take?
After your free evaluation and our determination that you have a valid claim, we will require other documentation from you. The specific documents required will depend on what type of claim you are filing. The amount of time the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center takes to process your claims will depend on the value and complexity of each individual claim.
10. Do I really need a lawyer?
Our BP oil spill claim lawyers have assisted thousands of claimants evaluate and process claims. We have retained forensic accountants that assist our legal team to prepare and process claim packages. We walk our clients through the complex settlement agreement so that they are comfortable with the entire process. Our team will prepare your claim which will minimize the chances of your claim being delayed or denied due to incompleteness. Our help will get your claim maximized and paid in the shortest amount of time. We will work with the claims center on your behalf, as well as provide any legal counsel necessary throughout the process, including any appeals. Due to the complex nature of the settlement agreement and its various requirements and exceptions, consulting with our Deepwater Horizon settlement attorneys will ensure that your claim is handled properly and that your compensation is maximized.
11. What happens if we do not participate?
You are automatically a member of the class if you are located in one of the geographic zones covered by the settlement agreement and/or have a claim covered under the settlement agreement. A list of claims covered under the agreement is as follows:
Business Economic Loss
Individual Economic Loss
Loss of Subsistence
Vessel of Opportunity (VoO) Charter Payment
Vessel Physical Damage
Coastal Real Property Damage
Wetlands Real Property Damage
Real Property Sales Damage
To participate in the settlement class, you must file your claim by April 22, 2014. By choosing not to participate, you lose the right to make a claim as a member of the class under the settlement agreement. In essence, you are declining to seek the compensation that BP has agreed to pay you.
12. What does “opting out” mean?
The settlement agreement provides you with the legal right to opt out of the settlement class. If you opt out, you are no longer in the class for any claims you have filed or intend to file that are covered under the settlement agreement. However, the deadline to opt out passed on November 1, 2012.
13. How much money has BP agreed to pay pursuant to the settlement agreement?
The settlement agreement is not capped, and BP has agreed to pay all eligible claims pursuant to the Deepwater Horizon settlement agreement. Originally, BP projected to the public and its shareholders that it would pay $7.8 billion in the settlement, but that number has since increased and now BP claims it cannot project its total payments.
14. What if our company went out of business in 2010?
Even if your company went out of business in 2010, you may still have a claim. Certain failed businesses and failed start-up businesses are eligible under the settlement agreement. Failed means the business wound down, entered bankruptcy, began or completed a liquidation of substantially all assets, or ceased operations. A failed business is one which began operations prior to November 1, 2008, and failed after May 1, 2010 but before December 31, 2011. A failed start-up business is one which began operations on or after November 1, 2008, and failed after May 1, 2010 but before December 31, 2010.
15. What if I already filed a claim with the GCCF?
If at any point you signed a Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) Release and Covenant Not to Sue (that was not specifically limited to bodily injury claims only), then you are only eligible to file a Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) Charter Payment claim or a Vessel Physical Damage claim in the settlement program. However, if you signed a release and covenant not to sue that was strictly limited to bodily injury claims, and you are a class member, then you can still participate fully in the settlement program. If you are able to participate in the settlement program and qualify for a payment, then prior payments from BP and the GCCF may be deducted from your settlement payment.
16. When does the program end?
Claims filed as part of the economic settlement program must be filed by April 22, 2014 and can be extended by any pending appeals. For the medical settlement, the deadline for filing a claim will be one year after the medical settlement’s effective date. Because of appeals on the medical settlement, the effective date has not yet been determined.