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Feinberg: spill claimants can get interim payments

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Gulf of Mexico oil spill victims will be allowed to get periodic interim payments for economic and other damages for up to three years without giving up their right to sue BP, independent claims administrator Ken Feinberg said Thursday, reversing his earlier plan.

Feinberg also said he’s being inundated with claims with little or no documentation as the Nov. 23 deadline approaches to seek temporary emergency payments. The spill followed the April 20 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana.

Feinberg originally planned to accept applications only for final claims after the emergency filing deadline.

To get a final award, claimants must give up their right to sue BP or appeal to the Coast Guard without knowing the long-term implications of the spill. They would, however, keep the right to sue over health-related damages.

Feinberg said he changed his mind and agreed to offer interim damage awards at the urging of Florida officials and the U.S. Justice Department.

“What I’m inclined to do now is …. give a claimant after Nov. 23 a choice: Here’s a final lump sum payment in full satisfaction now and forevermore of your claim, or if you’d rather here’s another interim payment,” Feinberg told the Florida Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force.

Claimants would be able to seek interim payments for intervals as short as three months through the Aug. 23, 2013, deadline for filing final claims. Feinberg said he’ll include the provision in a draft of guidelines he plans to begin distributing for comment next week.

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