Gulf Oil Spill Claims
Claims submitted for losses related to the BP oil disaster have increased dramatically over the past two weeks, adding to concerns about fraud.
Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing claims payments Gulfwide, said in an interview Friday with the Sun Herald that 160,000 claims have been submitted — roughly half of them in the past two weeks. He believes word has gotten out that his Gulf Coast Claims Facility is delivering on its promise to pay BP claims.
“The volume is frankly unexpected and welcomed, but there are a huge number of claims with no documentation — none — or woefully inadequate documentation,” Feinberg said. “And now, what I’m hearing, the legitimate claimants are worried that their legitimate claim will be delayed, or reduced in amount, because of what they perceive to be a flood of illegitimate claims.
“No good deed goes unpunished. So now, claims are rolling in at an amazing rate and we are reviewing them, sending deficiency notices where the documentation is inadequate or nonexistent, and investigating those claims where fraud is suspected.”
Feinberg also said his office and the U.S. Justice Department are receiving more reports of fraud from Gulf residents.
Feinberg had promised to pay documented individual claims within 48 hours and documented business claims within seven days. He later conceded the claims were not being paid that quickly.
He couldn’t say Friday how much time elapses between claim documentation and payment. GCCF currently is paying emergency claims without requiring claimants to relinquish the right to sue — a stipulation he insisted upon. Nov. 23 is the deadline to submit emergency claims.
After that time, GCCF will make only final, lump-sum payments for total losses. Claimants who accept those payments must relinquish their right to sue.
Tom Becker, president of the Mississippi Charter Boat Association, said he has received only one emergency payment from Feinberg’s GCCF. He has been waiting 1 1/2 months for a second monthly check. Becker has submitted tax returns, profit-loss statements and other documentation. The charter boat captains with whom he has spoken feel like they are being underpaid, Becker said. He said his only check from GCCF was at the low end of what his actual earnings would have been.
“I’m very disappointed in the way Feinberg is doing things,” Becker said. Colleagues with whom he has spoken feel the same way, he said. They also believe residents without legitimate claims are slowing down the process. Read more..