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Hood: Beware BP's oil spill claim process

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Attorney General Jim Hood says he is concerned about “an extensive release” claimants are required to sign in order to receive disaster assistance in the wake of the BP oil spill.

On Dec. 13, Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) administrator Kenneth Feinberg announced the GCCF’s next phase, which will include three payment options — interim payments, final payments and quick final payments. All claimants who elect to accept a final payment or quick final payment are required to sign a release that would bar them from any future recovery for damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, even for future unanticipated losses, according to Hood.

The Gulf Coast state attorneys general have raised concerns regarding the release. Hood said despite efforts by the attorneys general to work with Feinberg and BP to improve the claims process, the GCCF is proceeding as planned with implementation of its final protocol and release.

He said attorneys general strongly urge all claimants to proceed with caution in evaluating whether to accept an offer of final payment or quick final payment from the GCCF or to sign any release.

Claimants considering making a quick final payment claim should also evaluate whether their total possible damages exceed the set amount offered for such claims — $5,000 for individuals or $25,000.00 for businesses. Claimants should be aware that by accepting either form of final offer and signing the release, they are agreeing that they can never recover any additional money from BP or any other responsible party for damages resulting from the oil spill.  Due to the speculative nature of estimating a final claim value and the breadth of the GCCF release, Hood said the attorneys general advise claimants against accepting any form of final payment or signing any release without first thoroughly reviewing and understanding the GCCF’s terms. Claimants are strongly encouraged to consult with counsel before signing any final claim paperwork with the GCCF.

Hood added that the attorneys general are continuing to press Feinberg and BP to make improvements to the GCCF final protocol and release. In the meantime, claimants may file interim claims to recover their currently known damages without having to sign any release.

Claimants with questions or concerns should contact the Attorney General’s Office, local bar or legal aid organization or attorney for assistance.

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